From a Limo driver to an Oscar nominee, Barkhad Abdi, you rekindled hope in me!

Published: January 21, 2014

With fame banging on his door steps, Abdi escalated from being a mere limo driver in Minnesota to becoming an Oscar nominated actor. PHOTO: CAPTAIN PHILIPS OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE

Three months ago, Barkhad Abdi’s dreams came true when his first Hollywood movie hit the cinemas and popularity and fortune placed the debutant in the spotlight. With fame banging on his door, Abdi escalated from being a mere limo driver in Minnesota to becoming an Oscar-nominated actor.

To understand his climb to success, one needs to reel back a little and revisit a few events.

Barkhad Abdi in a still taken from the movie Captain Philips.

About two years back, Abdi was selected from an open casting call in Minneapolis, to co-star with Tom Hanks in the Sony Pictures piracy drama Captain Phillips. Abdi, a huge Hollywood movie buff, was excited to meet Tom Hanks for the first time during the film’s shooting.

Barkhad Abdi and Tom Hanks with fellow cast members of Captain Philips. Photo: Reuters

The Somalian actor travelled to London and Malta for the shooting, and managed to cast a spell over audiences and critics alike with his acting. Since the film’s release in 2013, Abdi’s fame has increased remarkably. He received a Golden Globe nomination earlier and has recently been nominated for the Oscars in the category of best supporting actor for the first time.

A still taken from the movie Captain Philips.

If you have seen Captain Phillips, you will know that it is a modern day film based on the story of Captain Richard Phillips – a merchant marine who was the head of the MV Maersk Alabama when the ship was hijacked by the Somalian pirates in 2009.

The film stars Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini, Chris Mulkey and of course, Barkhad Abdi – who plays the role of the Somalian pirate group’s leader.

A still taken from the movie Captain Philips.

It was one of the most well-received movies of 2013.

“Look at me. Look at me. I am the captain now.”

This beautifully executed dialogue by Abdi has become the newest popular phrase from the movie.

Abdi was a limousine driver before he auditioned for Captain Phillips. He was born in Somalia and grew up in Yemen before moving to the United States with his family at the age of 14. He settled in Minnesota and attended college there.

A still taken from the movie Captain Philips.

Currently, he is working on two new movies and is an ambassador for a non-profit NGO for Somalian refugees. His dream was to become an actor and director in Hollywood. The movie Captain Philips has given him global recognition and the boost he needed to spread his wings and fly high under the Hollywood banner.

Photo: Captain Philips official Facebook page

Other nominations for the best supporting actor for the 2014 Academy Awards include Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street and Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. However, the nomination for Barkhad Abdi was by far the most exciting.

The Academy Awards will be presented on March 2, 2014 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California. I am keeping my fingers crossed; Abdi winning will definitely prove that hard work and patience does pay off.

Good luck!

Almas Akhtar

Almas Akhtar

A Michigan based writer who enjoys travelling and watching movies and who runs a Facebook blog named Tuesday talk.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Barkhad Abedi’s story is the quintessential case of the American dream.
    What I liked was that in the movie, he did not allow Tom Hanks ( they don’t come much bigger ) to steal the show.Recommend

  • Comedian

    Someone give that guy something to eat!Recommend

  • water bottle

    It’s a racially propelled pity nomination.

    His performance in the film is good but not great.

    Academy has taken a pity and lowered the standard because he came from a country with no cinema culture.

    If the same performance was given by, say, a Nigerian, it wouldn’t have received a nomination because Nigeria has a film culture.Recommend

  • Graphic Guru

    I am too evil to laugh on this……Recommend

  • hana

    Come on guys why all of you hate the man no one of u know anything about somalia and her cultures go a head barkhad we all support u here .Recommend

  • Parvez

    Hana did you read what I had written…..or was your comment directed at me by mistake ?Recommend

  • Sid

    He is better like this!Recommend

  • vik850

    You clearly dont understand that hes being recognized because of how great he acted in the movie. His back story is just an extra.

  • joe

    the man deserves the nomination and award. His (and the other pirates) acting was so convincing, so real one would have thought you were watching the real thing. Nothing but great things to say about them all and he in particular.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Good to see that you hate other things beside Pakistan. Had even chunkey pandey and Ritesh deshmukh had gotten this nomination you would have been praising them.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    You haven’t seen other performances, that’s why you are stuck at one side. Although I believe his acting is amazing in the movie.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    Obviously, you have no understanding about movie-world. It is just your own mindset about Academy.Recommend

  • Imran khan Sahir

    While Barkhad’s acting was no doubt amazing but I guess all the Somali pirates group was just brilliant! On a few instants I felt that their acting even outshines Tom Hanks.Recommend