Pirates of the Horn of Africa: The Movie

The rescue of a US sea captain gave Samuel L Jackson an idea. Now Hollywood senses a blockbuster, says Daniel Howden

The fact that the piracy crisis off the Horn of Africa has often resembled a script written in Hollywood hasn't escaped the notice of the movie industry itself.

A bidding war is underway in Los Angeles for film rights to the story of Richard Phillips, the US sea captain whose dramatic rescue from Somali pirates captivated people around the world last month. The auction comes less than a week after Samuel L Jackson bought the life rights of a Kenyan piracy expert, whom he intends to play in an upcoming movie.

The captain, who survived five days aboard a lifeboat with four gunmen before three of them were shot dead by navy snipers, is being represented by Creative Artists Agency, one of the biggest players in Hollywood who has had stars such as Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts on its books.

The CAA is helping the sailor from Vermont to navigate waters of an entirely different kind and the agency is already fielding lucrative film and book offers for him as Hollywood scrambles for the best way to cash in on global interest in the surge of piracy in the waters off Somalia.

Thymaya Payne, a US film-maker who is in the region working on a documentary on piracy, said Hollywood has started to get really interested in the topic since the first attempted hijacking of a US ship last month. "Since the Maersk Alabama the level of interest has rocketed," he said. "My BlackBerry hasn't stopped ringing."

Last week, Andrew Mwangura, a 47-year-old who runs a non-profit seafarers association, expressed his surprise that his life would be the basis for a potential blockbuster. The former merchant seaman has been running the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme for more than a decade, and the piracy problem now dominates his life. Based in the humid Kenyan port city of Mombasa, where his desk used to be in a shack, he now works without an office, relying on more than half-a-dozen mobile phones to keep in touch with ship movements, sources, ship-owners and in some cases the pirates themselves.

"Why me?" was his response when Andras Hamori, a representative from Jackson's Uppity Films and an associated company H20 Motion, flew into Kenya to sign him up. He told him: "Why are you flying all the way from America just to see me and then for only one day, then fly back?"

"They say it's because you're a hero, that's what they say. And I told them I'm not a hero... because what I'm doing, I'm doing for the benefit of mankind."

Mr Mwangura shot to prominence after his role in the ransoming of a Ukrainian cargo vessel, the MV Faina, which was hijacked en route to deliver tanks and heavy weaponry to Mombasa. Mr Mwangura embarrassed Kenyan authorities by revealing that the real destination was Sudan, in violation of international agreements.

When the ship was eventually ransomed the consultant found an arrest warrant had been issued for him prior to the released ship's arrival in Mombasa. Mr Mwangura and his lawyer, Francis Kadima, have dismissed the drugs charge as a diversionary tactic to force him into hiding while the cargo ship was in port.

While Hollywood and others are seeking to portray him as a negotiator, Mr Mwangura insists he is not directly involved with ransom discussions.

The bald-headed Mr Mwangura has a slight resemblance to the Pulp Fiction star, if only because he has taken to wearing a cap and dark glasses – only in the Kenyan's case, these items are worn as a disguise.

"People call me and they ask for help," he told The Independent in a recent interview in Mombasa. He has taken to switching mobile phones, arriving early for appointments and believes he is being followed by authorities. "There are people who don't want Andrew Mwangura to be able to speak the truth," he said. He denies being a paid go-between and says he relies on donations. But such concerns may be lost in the rush to put modern pirates on the big screen.

"I'm concerned that Hollywood might turn it into a cartoon," said the young director, Payne. "Which would be a shame because if they did dig deeper the real story is beyond anything you could make up."

Hollywood's first mistake may have occurred already. Mr Mwangura admitted that given a choice he would rather be played by Kenya's favourite actor: Denzel Washington.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
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.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world