Barkhad Abdi is in the running for Oscar gold Sunday, but actual wealth eludes him.
Abdi has been widely praised for his role in “Captain Phillips” as the desperate pirate Muse, and even ad-libbed the film’s signature line: “I’m the captain now.” But a New Yorker story reveals that he is now struggling to support himself.
“When Abdi is in Los Angeles to promote the film, he subsists on a per diem, good at the Beverly Hilton, where the studio likes to put him up. The town car is available only for official publicity events. His clothes are loaners,” reads the article. “Recently Abdi requested that he be allowed to stay at a commuter hotel near LAX to be closer to his friend, a Somali cabdriver from Miinneapolis, who shuttles him around for free.”
Abdi earned $65,000 for his performance in the $55 million film, but that was more than two years ago. And even with an Oscar nomination, there’s no guarantee of his future earning potential as an actor. Abdi already won a BAFTA for best supporting actor, and is now reading scripts in search of his next role.
After the Oscars, Abdi plans to move to L.A. and live with fellow “Captain Phillips” actor Faysal Ahmed.
Still, his life is better than it might have been. The 28-year-old was six when war broke out in Somalia, and rape and killing suddenly became common. His mother evacuated the family, first to be with Abdi’s father in Yemen, where he was teaching math. Eventually they settled in Minneapolis in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, home to many Somalis.
He was working for the limo company when he saw an announcement that a film was looking for actors to play Somali pirates.
After filming “Captain Phillips,” he went to work at his brother’s mobile phone store in Minneapolis. But he decided to quit when the film premiered.
“How I thought about it was, like, When the movie came out, reviews either gonna be good or bad,” he told the New Yorker’s Dana Goodyear. “Either way, I cannot be working here.”