Captain Phillips actor Barkhad Abdi struggles financially despite Oscar nomination

Abdi's role has brought him fame, but it's yet to bring him fortune

Los Angeles

Barkhad Abdi’s first film role may have brought fame, but it has yet to bring him a fortune. According to a profile published this week in The New Yorker, the 28-year-old Somali-American star of Captain Phillips, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at Sunday’s Oscars, has struggled to support himself financially through the awards season.

Abdi was working as a limousine driver in Minnesota when, in 2011, he attended an open casting call for Captain Phillips, which was directed by Paul Greengrass and stars the two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. The film tells the true story of the 2009 hijacking of a US cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates, who subsequently held the ship’s captain hostage. Abdi was cast as the leader of the pirates, Abduwali Muse.

The best movies of all time

The film had a budget of $55 million (£33 million), relatively modest by Hollywood standards, but has since taken almost $218 million at the worldwide box office. Abdi, who had never acted before, was paid $65,000 for his performance, little more than the mandated Screen Actors Guild (SAG) minimum of $60,000 for a feature film.

When production wrapped, Abdi returned to Minneapolis and a job at his brother’s mobile phone shop. During the publicity campaign for the movie, Sony Pictures – which produced Captain Phillips – would put him up at the Beverly Hilton hotel. The studio also provided clothes and a car, though only for official publicity events. Recently, The New Yorker reported, “Abdi requested that he be allowed to stay at a commuter hotel near [the airport] to be closer to his friend, a Somali cabdriver from Minneapolis, who shuttles him around for free.”

Abdi was born in Mogadishu in 1985. In an interview with The Daily Beast he described the Somalia of his early childhood as “a very peaceful place. Everyone loved each other, everyone was a neighbour, there was a community.” The country’s crippling civil war broke out in 1991, when he was six. “It turned overnight to chaos, killing and guns,” he said. “It was a very scary time for me and my family.” His family fled for Yemen the following year, and emigrated to the US when Abdi was 14, finally settling near Minneapolis, which has a large Somali population.

After the premiere of Captain Phillips, Abdi moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting, and he now lives in Los Angeles with his friend from Minnesota, Faysal Ahmed, who played another of the film’s pirates. Abdi said: “How I thought about it was like, ‘When the movie came out reviews either gonna be good or bad. Either way, I cannot be working here.’”

Barkhad Abdi, left, with Tom Hanks in 'Captain Phillips' (Columbia Pictures) Barkhad Abdi, left, with Tom Hanks in 'Captain Phillips' (Columbia Pictures)
The reviews were good, and the first-time actor went on to win the Bafta award for Best Supporting Actor. He was also nominated for a SAG award, not to mention the Oscar. Captain Phillips was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, though the film eventually left Sunday’s ceremony empty-handed. Abdi has no future projects listed on his IMDB profile, but he is said to be in talks to star in The Place That Hits The Sun, a biopic of the South African athlete Willie Mtolo, who ran the 1992 New York marathon.

Abdi was not the only nominee in the Best Supporting Actor category to be paid less than the standard star salary. Jonah Hill, who was nominated for his performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, recently revealed that he took the SAG minimum of $60,000 for the role. Hill already has a net worth of several million dollars, but said, “I would sell my house and give him all my money to work for [Scorsese].”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions