New York Film Fest: 'Captain Phillips' Writer, Producer Talk About Gripping True Story, Movie's Gotham Debut
The New York Film Festival kicked off Friday night with a standing ovation for the premiere of Sony's Captain Phillips, the audience clearly impressed by the suspenseful Tom Hanks-starrer, based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips' struggle with Somali pirates in 2009.
Before the movie, screenwriter Billy Ray told The Hollywood Reporter that the gripping nature of the real events made it easy for him to turn them into a film.
"As true stories go, this one laid out like a movie," he said. "I mean, it had drama and tension and huge politics to it. It had action built into it. The beauty was I didn't have to invent anything, we just had to make smart event choices and get out of its way."
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Ray conceded that there were challenges in terms of trying to portray the events accurately, but he had help from the real Captain Phillips to make sure he got the details right.
"I had access to him whenever I needed it," Ray said. "I spent a great deal of time with him and his family. A lot of phone calls, a lot of e-mails back and forth when he was back at sea again…He was absolutely invaluable."
Ray's previous work includes writing screenplays for Shattered Glass and the movie version of State of Play, and he told THR that those titles, as well as Captain Phillips, are all films about integrity.
Captain Phillips notably bypassed the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals to debut in New York, a decision that producer Michael De Luca told THR was based on a combination of timing and his and producer Scott Rudin's Gotham-centric backgrounds.
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"It's always a combination of schedule and the best platform for the movie and we just thought the New York Film Festival would be the best opening platform for the film and it worked out for us schedule-wise," De Luca said. "They really embraced the movie, and any chance to be at the New York Film Festival (I'm a New Yorker, ex-New Yorker because I live in L.A. now, Scott Rudin's a New Yorker), any chance to be in this festival because of its prestige and what a great show they put on, we had to leap at it."
Prior to its enthusiastic reception at the festival, Captain Phillips had already received good reviews from critics like THR's own Todd McCarthy.
"It seems like the intention of the filmmakers has been received and appreciated by audiences and critics, which is a fantasy but when it comes true, you're really happy about it," De Luca told THR, noting that he reads every single review.
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De Luca is also one of the producers of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, and he said that he understood the backlash to that film's casting choices, but he thinks fans will be happy with the final product.
"I think it's a really involved fan base, and I've been proprietary of certain characters that I'm a fan of whether it's from comic books or whatever, so I totally get it, but we tried to go with the best people for the job and the actors that we felt were best suited based on the auditions that we saw and the people that were available," he said. "I think the proof's going to be in the pudding and when the movie comes out all will be well."