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Richard Phillips packs Whallonsburg Grange Hall

Capt. Richard Phillips speaks to the over 150 people in attendance at the Champlain Valley Film Society’s screening of “Captain Phillips,” Feb. 2.

Capt. Richard Phillips speaks to the over 150 people in attendance at the Champlain Valley Film Society’s screening of “Captain Phillips,” Feb. 2. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— The Whallonsburg Grange Hall was packed to capacity Feb. 2, not to watch two football teams do battle on the gridiron, but to get the chance to meet a Vermonter made famous in a most infamous way.

The Champlain Valley Film Society showed the Academy Award-nominated, “Captain Phillips,” a viewing that included the chance to hear from the film’s title character, Merchant Marine Capt. Richard Phillips, who was taken captive by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa in 2009.

“It is really a story of a man in peril; we all have those tough times and movies like this are good at showing that even in the toughest of times, at the end you can get through it,” Phillips said of the movie.

The captain spoke to over 150 attendees (organizers said they had to turn away over 40 more at the door), telling them about life on the high seas and the challenges that come with that life, including the threat of piracy.

“It is something that we have had to learn to deal with, like dealing with weather and break downs,” Phillips said, later joking, “I always tell people that pirating is the second oldest profession we have to deal with on a regular occasion.”

Since the 2009 kidnapping and subsequent rescue by the United States military, Phillips has found himself in the spotlight of celebrity, which again ramped up with the release of the movie which stars Tom Hanks portraying Phillips.

“I was sort of ignorant and naive as to what was going on back in the states and the incredible media blitz that was taking place while I was captive,” Phillips said. “That was surprising, but I think fame is what other people think about. I’m just a guy who tried to do his job to the best of his ability.”

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