The story would hit closer to home than anyone expected. By the time the TV crews arrived on Taylor’s Point,
they learned Somali pirates had hijacked the Maersk Alabama and taken its captain, Richard Phillips, hostage.
“They said, ‘Do you know this guy?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, he graduated from here. He was class of ’79. I knew him,’”
remembered Adm. Richard Gurnon, the academy’s president. “And (his first mate’s) dad is the guy you’re going to
interview on classroom techniques on antipiracy.”
It didn’t take long for about 15 satellite trucks to line Academy Drive and make the campus the headquarters for
covering a highseas standoff that ended in Phillips’ rescue.
Four years later, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is making the jump to the big screen with the premiere
tonight of “Captain Phillips,” a film based on Phillips’ book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and
Dangerous Days at Sea.”
Phillips, who is portrayed in the film by Tom Hanks, offered himself as a hostage when the four teenage pirates
boarded the 17,000ton cargo ship with pistols and AK47s. The crew escaped harm after Phillips ordered them to
lock themselves in secure cabins and allowed himself to be taken at gunpoint into the covered lifeboat, where
temperatures topped 100 degrees.
As Navy ships kept a close watch, Phillips was held hostage inside the sweltering lifeboat for five days before
U.S. snipers killed three of the pirates in a daring rescue mission.
When the trailer began to appear earlier this summer, Gurnon said the academy’s advancement office came to
him with the idea of screening the film at its annual scholarship gala. In June, Gurnon took a “one in a million
shot” and wrote Sony Pictures an email, asking if the academy could show the film as “sort of a premiere” at the
About two months later, the studio agreed. All of a sudden, RSVPs began flowing in, bringing attendance to 411
for an event that typically draws a crowd of 300 or less.
The invitationonly screening will begin at 9:30 p.m. in the academy auditorium. At midnight, the academy’s
cadets and faculty will have a chance to watch the film before its Oct. 11 official release.
The gala typically raises about $140,000 for scholarships, but with the buzz of a bigscreen premiere, this year’s
haul is expected to exceed $200,000, Gurnon said.
“I have people flying up from Virginia to see the movie,” Gurnon said. “I have parents of cadets from out of state
who are flying in. To them, this is an exciting new aspect. Not too often do colleges have premieres of movies
starring Tom Hanks, particularly when your kids are going into the maritime business.”
In what he knew was a “wicked long shot,” Gurnon said he tried to contact Hanks and asked whether the star
would be able to tape a message for the gala. He even asked if Hanks would speak at the next commencement
But Gurnon has yet to hear from Hanks.He hasn’t said yes, but he hasn’t said no,” Gurnon said.
“We’re hoping Tom shows up,” said Holly Knight, the academy’s vice president for advancement.
Gurnon also texted Phillips to ask whether he would be available Sept. 21. Phillips, who was at sea, planned to
return last week and drive from his home in Vermont to attend the gala with his wife, Andrea.
But Phillips’ return was delayed because the prospect of a U.S. strike on Syria slowed ships passing through the
“Everyone was worried there would be tomahawk missiles flying,” Gurnon said. “So his ship was delayed a week.”
The academy had hoped Andrea Phillips would attend anyway, but she said she wanted to watch the film with her
husband. She could not be reached for an interview Friday.
Shane Murphy, the ship’s first mate, is also out at sea. The 2001 graduate is played by actor Michael Chernus in
“So we don’t have any VIPs,” Gurnon said, “but we do have the movie.”
Article from Cape Cod Times
By C. Ryan Barber
September 30, 2013
Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
last updated 9-22-13 by firstname.lastname@example.org