'Captain Phillips' Somali Pirate Captain Barkhad Abdi's Oscar Cinderella Story
Perhaps the most interesting Cinderella story of this year's award season is that of Barkhad Abdi, the former limo driver who starred alongside Tom Hanks in "Captain Phillips."
Abdi is now an Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a Somali pirate captain. It was his first ever acting gig.
Originally from Mogodishu, Abdi immigrated to Minnesota when he was a teenager in order to escape the horrific civil war that continues to engulf the country.
Still, "He (Abdi) recalls an idyllic childhood there, making and flying kites and playing marbles, until the age of 7, when civil war broke out," the Los Angeles Times reported. "He and his family fled to Yemen, where his father was already working as a teacher. Seven years later, they immigrated to the U.S., joining a vibrant Somali community in Minneapolis."
Abdi supported his family by driving a limo, but said that his true passion was always movies. When a casting call for native Somalis was announced in Minneapolis, Abdi ecstatically jumped at the chance.
He and his three friends auditioned together, all of whom were ultimately flown to Los Angeles to act in the movie.
When asked how he prepared for the role as Muse, Abdi said that he simply "just thought about him" because "There is not much research, there is more word of mouth among the Somali community going around about pirates. You don't know which story is real, which is not. So there was no legit information or a source that I could even look for."
Which isn't particularly surprising. What is surprising is that Abdi didn't even decide that he wanted to be actor until he was finished with the movie.
"I decided after the movie," he said in an interview with BBC. "I had made up my mind that I wanted to be an actor but there were no jobs for me at the time because I didn't have any other experience and the film wasn't out so I decided to work with my brother rather than stay at home."
Abdi has been nominated for numerous awards for his portrayal of Muse. He told the Los Angeles Times that the Oscar nomination was the highlight of his remarkable rise to stardom, saying that the honor "really got to me."
The actor's parents, however, are a little out of the Hollywood loop, Abdi joked.
"What is this thing everybody is congratulating about?" Abdi's father asked him. "Did you win?"