Captain Richard Phillips, hero at sea and star of screen, talks Merchant Marine budget cuts

Captain Richard Phillips, former skipper of the MV Maersk Alabama, talks to journalist at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2013. The story of the capturing of Captain Phillips and his ship by Somali pirates in 2009 is the inspiration behind the newest Hollywood film "Captain Phillips" starring Tom Hanks. Mladen Antonov/ AFP Photo/ Getty Images Captain Richard Phillips talks to journalists at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday. (Mladen Antonov/ AFP Photo/ Getty Images)

If Richard Phillips and his generic name had a tendency to blur in your mind, well, no longer! Now, the brave mariner, who survived a 2009 standoff with Somali pirates, is “Captain Phillips,” thanks to the Tom Hanks movie of the same name — with enough starpower that reporters packed a room Thursday to hear him hold forth on sequester cuts.

“We are the truckdrivers of the ocean,” he said of his seafaring brethren before teeing off on his celebvocacy talking points: As many as four U.S. Merchant Marine vessels that haul military cargo or food to needy foreign lands could be drydocked with the loss of $12 million in subsidies.

But he fielded a lot of pirate questions. “It’s the second oldest profession we deal with,” he said dryly. “They’re not dumb, they are imaginative, and they are capable.” Should he have heeded advisories to steer clear of Somalia? Heck, those are just advisories. “We fight [piracy] all over the globe. Nigeria’s probably worse these days than Somalia ever was.”

Enjoy the movie? “I think Tom Hanks did a great job. Looking at his eyes. . . you could feel the fear.”

RelatedCaptain Phillips reviewed by Ann Hornaday

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Amy Argetsinger · October 10, 2013