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Somali immigrant goes from driver to Oscar nominee

CNN
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POSTED: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 2:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 2:04pm

If you've seen the movie "Captain Phillips," you likely remember Barkhad Abdi.

He played the part of a terrifying pirate, a role that's earned him an Oscar nod for best supporting actor.

His acting may be astounding, but the story of how he became a Hollywood sensation is even more amazing.

Poppy: "Do you ever get used to the cold?"

Barkhad: "It's hard to get used to the cold!"

28-year old Barkhad Abdi ad-libbed that now famous line as "Muse," the lead pirate in the blockbuster Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks.

The Somali immigrant is a natural on screen, but his journey to stardom has been anything but.

Poppy: "Is this the route you used to drive?"

Barkhad: "Yeah, I drive around"

Abdi drove a town car for a living, barely able to pay his rent. He left war-torn Somalia at seven, emigrating to Yemen, then Minnesota.

Barkhad: "I remember the war..It was like guns everywhere."

At just six-years-old he lay in bed in Mogadishu, identifying guns by the sound of their shots.

When the Maersk Alabama was hijacked in 2009 Abdi watched -- stunned!

Barkhad: "I was just shocked by this whole piracy and Somali piracy."

He hadn't acted a day in his life but when casting directors descended on Minneapolis he beat out more than 800 others.

He, and his three friends, all cast as pirates, roles of a lifetime.

Back at home, they remain close.

He seized the ship on film, but in real life, he couldn't swim!

Director Paul Greengrass kept tensions high, preventing the 'pirates' from meeting Tom Hanks until they filmed this scene.

Barkhad: "Somehow to me it was like this scene will determine whether the movie fails or does good."

He remains starstruck by Hanks.

Barkhad: "I can't believe I made a scene with the Forest Gump guy."

Poppy: "The Forest Gump Guy!"

It earned him an Oscar nod -- and a BAFTA.

And can't walk a block without being recognized!

Man on street: "Hey are you the guy from that movie? I was wondering if I could get a picture with you?"

Barkhad: "Sure. Yeah!"

Poppy: "Do you ever want to be like, normal and not noticed?"

Barkhad "You know, you want that. You want that. I guess it comes with the territory."

Abdi's success is the stuff of dreams, but for him it's more than fame.

Barkhad: "It's way bigger than me, it's for the lost generation, It's something to tell them go on, you can do it somehow."

Abdi will find out if he's an Oscar winner on Sunday.

He says he plans to move to Los Angeles to escape the cold of Minneapolis and pursue an acting career.

He’s in talks to star as a famous South African marathoner in a new movie called "The Place That Hits The Sun."
 

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