Based on a true story. For decades, those five words have given Hollywood license to play fast and loose with the truth, and Tom Hanks' latest hit Captain Phillips is no exception. Since the film's release, several crew members have stepped forward to dispute the veracity of the epic narrative that plays out on screen. And now, a world exclusive investigation by RadarOnline.com has exposed yet another side to the story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking: The only surviving member of the Somali pirate crew who hijacked the ship, Abduwali Muse, is speaking out from federal prison to share his side of what happened on the fateful ship, disputing the version of the story that's been told so far in the media, in Hollywood, and even by the U.S. government.
"The film is based on a story that even Captain Phillips, on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, said was made up by the media because they wanted a hero," Muse's close friend and confidante, Kaizer Matsumunyane, tells Radar exclusively. Mastumunyane is currently working on a documentary about Muse called The Smiling Pirate, and has corresponded with him for years. Through emails, letters, and phone calls, the Somali pirate turned inmate has revealed a shocking interpretation of what really happened on the Maersk Alabama.
"It would take pages to write what Muse said really happened with the hijacking," Matsumunyane explains. "His version is very much different than the Captain Phillips version."
"For example," he continues, "the official version is that American snipers simultaneously shot the three pirates when they thought the captain was in danger. The three pirates were supposedly shot instantly and with precision. The Navy snipers were never made known, but they were celebrated for their marksmanship after that."
But in this case, Muse says, history has been written by the victors. "According to Muse," Matsumunyane says, "that is not how things happened."
"Muse said that while he was on the Navy ship negotiating with American agents and having his injured hand treated, he was promised that they would get a safe passage back to Somalia if they released the captain of the ship," the filmmaker explains. "He said that he and the other pirates knew they were in a very desperate situation and just wanted the drama over and to go home."
"He relayed the message from the American agents to the pirates who were holding the American captain hostage on the small lifeboat," he continues. "The pirates agreed to release the captain if they would not be captured. Muse said that the American agents asked him to tell the pirates that to show good faith they should exit the lifeboat with their weapons down."
Muse complied, but Matsumunyane says, "…as soon as the pirates exited the lifeboat he suddenly heard a barrage of gunfire and saw his friends fall down dead. Even tot his day, Muse says that episode keeps replaying in his mind. He wakes up with nightmares of seeing his dead friends, and he blames himself for their deaths, as he is the one who convinced them to get out of the lifeboat. … He can still see those images of dead bodies and blames himself for their deaths."
Mastumunyayne further claims that the pirates had Phillips as a prisoner in the first place not because he sacrificed himself for his crew, but because of his own oversight.
"I spoke to the ship's third officer, Colin Wright, outside of court on the day Muse was sentenced," Matsumunyane claims. "He was angry about the book Captain Phillips wrote, A Captain's Duty. He said that he took liberty with the truth, as he was the one who put them in danger by ignoring warnings to stay away from the coast and also never risked his life for them."
Wright claimed "the captain was the first person captured, and it wasn't because he gave his lie for the crew, but because he had forgotten to lock the door of the room he was in," Matsumunyane says.
Even after the hijackings, Muse has allegedly claimed, the lies did not stop. Radar has learned that he has claimed that government agents used deception to make sure he was tried as an adult.
"There was always an issue of Muse's age," Matsumunyane explains. "Muse and his family had said he was 16 years old, but after a few court postponements to figure out his age, an American agent came forward saying Muse had confessed to being 18 years old."
"Muse says he never said such thing because he would have been lying," the filmmaker reveals.
While some have immediately discredited the claims of an incarcerated criminal, Matsumunyane says that it's unfair to dismiss his claims out of hand.
"There is a saying," he says, "That until the lion tells his story the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. … If you keep treating pirates as these faceless savages without really knowing who they are and why they are doing what they are doing then piracy will continue to wreck lives."
To that end, he is currently in the production phase of his film, which has found support from many international film groups.