When it came to casting the other key players, director Paul Greengrass says with no Somali acting communities on either coast, they headed to Minneapolis because Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the U.S.
"We put adverts out to come to open castings, and we had something like 700 or 800 people come," said Greengrass.
"Yeah, I was just watching TV at my friend's house and, casting call, Tom Hanks film. I went there and tried out," said Barkhad Abdi, who got his first acting job as the leader of the pirates.
"This was me, actually. That could have been possible. So I would just put that in my imagination and that helped build the character better," said Abdi.
"I was born in Somalia. I've seen the war at a very young age. When I was 6 years old, I seen the big war in Mogadishu, and I was lucky enough to have parents that got me out from country to country so I can be a better person," said Abdi.
Greengrass filmed 75 percent of "Captain Phillips" on the open water.
"It was incredibly hard work. I think it's probably the most physically hard film I've ever made," said Greengrass. "You're getting battered out in the ocean there for week after week after week. But when I look back on it, I remember it as a blessed experience; it was a fascinating film to make."
"Captain Phillips" is rated PG-13 and is in theaters this weekend.