Tom Hanks stars in Captain Phillips, a film dramatization of the story of Richard Phillips, who was kidnapped by pirates while captaining a container ship off the coast of Somalia in 2009. Hanks visited Atlanta in October to promote the film. Here is a conversation with the Oscar-winning actor about boats.
Are you a boat kind of guy? Do you own a boat?
Oh, no no. Not really, aside from the occasional vacation.
So, you've been on a cruise or two?
Yeah, but I've also made a lot of stuff on the water and I like to paddleboard and swim and stuff like that. So, I'm very comfortable on the water. I could've fallen off the boat and been fine.
Have you ever asked yourself, "What would I do if I was on a ship and pirates boarded the boat?"
Can I ask you that question?
That's an interesting question, because fear is relative, you know? There are times when our lives may not be in danger and we're certainly not being held at gunpoint off the horn of Africa, but we've all experienced some moment when we think, "Jesus, I'm so worried about this."
You can take versions of that, but it all has to be extrapolated. I wouldn't know how to do a part if I had to think, "Oh, yes, I remember that time when I was afraid my that luggage wouldn't get there!" so I'll use that. I wish it worked like that, because that's such a shorthand, but it has to have some other element to it.
Look, I read a lot. We're all open to these brands of inspiration and enlightenment that come from outside of us, from books we read or pieces of art we see, that's the stuff that's impacting. That's the stuff that you start carrying around with you, so that when you're talking to Richard Phillips, you understand that his dilemma there is equal to, like, great works of Shakespeare I've seen. It's not like the time that I was afraid that my car would break down while crossing the Rockies.
You really don't know how you would act if pirates came on the boat?
When you do Hollywood foreign press, you sometimes get questions like, "Ze film is about 'heroism.' When in your own life?"
We were in Washington, D.C., yesterday and that's actually the worst, the most cynical red carpet kind of thing. We had a screening there at the Newseum and almost nobody was there because they were all covering the shutdown and the first question was about intellectual property and artist's rights. Well, I believe that intellectual property should be owned by the artists and that artists should be remunerated. Then, another question was, "What steps will you take for the reopening of the national monuments?" Well, isn't that an unfortunate byproduct of the government shutdown? Then, another question was, "What would Captain Phillips say to the members of Congress?"
So I said, "I usually don't bail on interview questions, but ..."
This interview has been edited and condensed.