When Tom Hanks arrived at the Newseum Wednesday night for a screening of his new film, Captain Phillips, he made a beeline for the folks in bright white Navy uniforms. After an obligatory first stop with the media scrum, he noticed the group in the dress whites, and his face lit up. They aimed their smartphones at him but he had another idea. “Let’s do a selfie. C’mon guys,” he said. He took their phones and snapped away.
In the middle of the impromptu photo shoot, one of the participants waved a soccer ball he’d decorated to look like Wilson, the volleyball that was Hanks’s character’s sole companion—really his costar—during the movie Cast Away. Hanks seemed unfazed by the appearance of the ball; maybe it happens at every public appearance.
“Captain Phillips” is a true story of an American cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, that was hijacked in 2009 by Somali pirates about 300 miles off the coast of Somalia. The ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, was taken hostage. (Spoiler alert: He was later rescued by another ship, the USS Bainbridge, and Navy SEALS.)
The captain of the Bainbridge was Cmdr. Frank Castellano. Both Phillips and Castellano arrived at the Wednesday screening with Hanks and were in the audience for the film. During his remarks before the film rolled, director Paul Greengrass asked both men to stand and take a moment in the spotlight.
Greengrass said he was the son of merchant mariner and he felt he “knew something about this world” as he embarked on making the film. “For the men and women who go to sea, it’s a hard life, it’s a hardworking life,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve reflected a little bit of that.”
There were individuals in Navy uniforms throughout the audience, including some brass, including some brass such as Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, and Vice Admiral Albert Herberger. Seated beside me was an officer who identified herself only as “essential” in the government shutdown and based at the Pentagon. We wondered what it was like there since the furlough began. “Oh, there are a lot fewer people,” she said, but no, she would not be one of those who get to sleep late in the morning. “I have to be there very early.”