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December 2013

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director's chair Paul Greengrass: Captain Phillips H By Iain Blair Recreating a real-life hijacking on the open sea Post production took place at Double Negative in London. 14 OLLYWOOD — After a long, distinguished career in documentaries that culminated in the award-winning documentary-style feature Bloody Sunday about the 1972 civil rights march in Northern Ireland, British director Paul Greengrass brought his considerable gifts to Hollywood — and much like Jason Bourne, he hasn't stopped running since. First, he directed the international hit The Bourne Supremacy, which both critically and commercially out-gunned its successful predecessor, and then he won an Oscar nomination for his acclaimed and harrowing real-life 9/11 drama United 93. Now Greengrass, whose credits include the Oscar-winning The Bourne Ultimatum and Green Zone, has made Captain Phillips, a ripped-from-the-headlines emotional thriller — that also examines wider issues — about four Somali pirates who hijacked a US container ship in 2009 and then held the captain (played by Tom Hanks) hostage as they tried to negotiate a huge ransom. Here, in an exclusive interview, Greengrass, whose credits include Omagh, The Fix and The Theory of Flight, talks about making the new film and his love of post and visual effects. POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? PAUL GREENGRASS: "I go to the movies a lot and you come out every so often and go, 'That was great!' And it can be any sort of movie — a comedy, a big tent-pole, a small thriller, and while it's hard to define, we all know it when we see it, and when everything comes together and delivers you a great cinematic experience that's both a great ride and also rewarding. So when you start any film, that's what you hope for and dream of. And I'm very aware that nowadays you're also competing with not just all the other movies out there, but all the other leisure choices people have. So as soon as I read this script, I felt it fit all those criteria. It's this amazing story, a staggeringly dramatic series of events, which is both a very intense hostage movie and also an outlandish crime story. And I immediately responded to it." POST: It's amazing that piracy is still alive and well. GREENGRASS: "Yeah, it's both an ancient story and a very modern one, as it's about international organized crime in its modern form. In the '20s, it was all about knocking off the trucks coming out of the docks, and in the 19th Century it was all about robbing the Post • December 2013 railroads, and in the 18th Century it was the rutted highways and stagecoaches connecting the new cities, because that's where the wealth was being carried. Today, it's the sea lanes that carry the world's goods and wealth, and these young Somali pirates with guns are just at the very end of a long chain of interna- several days, into a two-hour narrative? And do that while staying as close as possible to the facts and truth? Obviously in a movie you have to make concessions and compromises, but I wanted to keep it as accurate as we could to the truth and the spirit of the real events. All that was the most difficult aspect of Director Paul Greengrass on-set: The crew spent 60 days at sea shooting Captain Phillips, all in an effort to achieve the authenticity required in recreating the real-life story. tional organized crime. The godfathers are well away from Somalia. They're based in Kenya and Nigeria, and ultimately the real big bosses are in Europe and even the US. And it's a multi-billion dollar business, very brutal and very violent. It's as far away from Pirates of the Caribbean as you can get, and that's what I loved about it." POST: Do you feel an extra responsibility in making a film about real-life people? GREENGRASS: "Absolutely, especially as I also felt a strong connection with the story. I'm the son of a merchant mariner, and my dad was at sea all his life, a hard-working guy, so I knew this character — Captain Phillips, and what he's up against. You can't call the cops when you're in the middle of the ocean, so the navy becomes the first responder, and it takes them days to get there, and so the tension begins to build. I just felt all that really lent itself to my kind of approach and storytelling." POST: What were the biggest challenges of making the film and how tough was the shoot? GREENGRASS: "The first big challenge was, how do you boil down an incredibly complicated series of events, as well as developing all the characters, that take place over the project by far. Second, I felt that this film wouldn't be authentic unless we found young Somalis to play the pirates, and once we'd cast them, I decided not to let them meet Tom and the rest of the crew until they stormed the ship, to make it more realistic. The third big challenge was shooting at sea with real ships, which is harder than you ever imagine." POST: Didn't you get the Jim Cameron memo: Never, ever shoot at sea? GREENGRASS: (Laughs) "Yes, I got it the day I took this on, but I knew we had to do it or it'd look hopelessly inauthentic. And although the film looks quite big in scale, it wasn't a very big budget. But we ended up shooting for over 60 days at sea and got great help from the US Navy. It was incredibly hard work but it was the real deal.You know you're at sea when you watch this." POST: Where did you do post? GREENGRASS: "Mostly in London. Double Negative and VFX supervisor Charlie Noble did most of the visual effects, along with some shots by Nvizible and Proof. We started in LA and [editor] Chris Rouse cut while I shot. He didn't come on the set, but we spent a lot of time together before the

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