Captain Phillips and 12 Years a Slave among Oscar front-runners
Paul Greengrass’ modern piracy tale Captain Phillips and Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave are among the Best Picture nominees for the 86th Academy Awards. David O Russell’s Massachusetts-filmed American Hustle is the overall front-runner with ten nominations.
McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the antebellum South of 1841. Filming took place on several plantations in Louisiana and parts of New Orleans were used to double for New York and Washington, DC. Louisiana is one of the top production hubs in the US, partly because of its generous 30% filming incentive.
Captain Phillips tells the true story of the hijacking of merchant vessel the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009 that resulted in a tense stand-off with the US Navy when Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage on one of the ship’s lifeboats.
Filming much of the movie on location off the coast of Malta, director Paul Greengrass chose to shoot on the Alabama’s sister ship the Maersk Alexander for scenes in the first half of the film depicting the actual hijacking. The production team spent weeks shooting on the open ocean and had to learn how to maintain the ship while they filmed.
The US Navy offered extensive production support for scenes depicting the eventual stand-off with the pirates, but filming had to shift to the coastal waters off Virginia to make use of resources based at Norfolk Naval Base. Two Navy destroyers – one of which was involved with the real 2009 incident – plus a helicopter and an aircraft carrier were used for the shoot.
“We had to get the ships in position, we had to get our cameras in position, the helicopter had to hit the lifeboat at the right moment and the actors in the lifeboat had to deal with the fact that the ships were creating an intentional wake to rock the boat. They were in there for hours while we did to them what the Navy did to the actual hijackers,” commented producer Dana Brunetti.
Alexander Payne’s Nebraska also has a Best Picture nomination and is notable for showcasing a part of the US not often seen on-screen. Payne spent a month on location in the sparsely-populated state, spending around USD1.5 million locally.
(Captain Phillips photos: Jason Boland/Columbia Pictures)
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