The Oscars were announced yesterday and leading the pack with 10 nominations are David O. Russell’s American Hustle and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. The other heavily nominated film and tied with Gravity as the best reviewed film this year (with more than 200 reviews), is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. These were fairly predictable nominations but one of the most interesting stories coming out of awards season is the nomination of first-time actor, Barkhad Abdi. He talked to the press shortly after he learned the news of his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Captain Phillips.
I couldn’t sleep much last night and I watched [the nominations] on TV. My little sister called first, and then after that the phone just started ringing so much the battery died on me. I’m just trying to comprehend everything that’s going on.
The nomination has been crazy, in a good way. It was just so exciting. I’m really humbled and honored and really happy about the nomination. I still cannot comprehend it fully. When my name was called it was shocking.
Shocking indeed. This 28-year old actor never acted a day in his life before being cast in Captain Phillips opposite Tom Hanks. He was a limo driver in Minneapolis, sitting around his friends house, when a casting call notice came on TV. He went to the audition and was called back several times before meeting the director, Paul Greengrass.
I wasn’t a complete actor. I was just auditioning with no previous experience. Paul Greengrass gets all the credit, honestly. He’s the one that believed in me and pushed me and, any time that I messed up, he was the one that would find a way to make me understand it so I could be that character.
This year The Oscars produced a series called ‘Academy Conversations‘ (watch from 4:30 on), including one with Greengrass, Hanks and Abdi. Abdi talks about the audition process and the work once they began filming – particularly the scene now made famous by the ‘Look at me, I’m the captain now,” ad-libbed line.
That scene was really hard. I understood the weight of it and I remember thinking about it a lot that night…I didn’t know what to do, honestly, til the next day I came and Paul told me just take control…do it, this is your time, you have to take care of this scene. That’s when I used a lot of imaginations and became the character as much as I can and…I became the captain.
Cue “that” line – the line that will now find its way in famous movie line history and because of that line and that performance, Abdi is now an Oscar nominee (surprisingly Hanks and Greengrass are not). He’s among a talented group that includes Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill and Jared Leto – you know, actors that have a tiny bit more experience than ole’ Abdi. So what’s next for ‘the captain’? Sounds like he is taking this acting thing very seriously and moving to Los Angeles for more acting opportunities. We wish him luck on that and on taking home the Oscar this year – it would be a little icing on top of an already great story.
Other noteworthy stories of past nominees include Anna Paquin becoming the second youngest Oscar winner ever for her amazing performance in The Piano and who can forget Roberto Benigni’s chair-scrambling, exuberant, wildly perfect acceptance speech for winning the Best Foreign Film Oscar for Life is Beautiful – he also won for Best Actor. Watch their acceptance speeches and watch this year’s Oscars to see if Abdi will make more Oscar history by being the first Somali-born actor to win.
Find a complete list of this year’s nominees here.