Barkhad Abdi, the Oscar nominated actor who played a Somali pirate opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips is reportedly broke despite his success.

Abdi, 28, a Somali refugee, fled Somalia with his family when he was just seven-years-old and finally moved to the U.S. when he was 14. Abdi has said that he was just about to start school in Somalia when the war broke out and he and his family were forced to leave.

“I remember I had my uniform and everything, like, finally I get to start school tomorrow. That afternoon, I started hearing gunshots. And, I remember… I wasn’t allowed to play outside anymore. The next day, it was war,” Abdi recounted in an interview with CBS News.

Abdi and his family settled in Minneapolis surrounded by a strong Somali community. Thrust into a whole new American world, Abdi struggled to learn English and assimilate. After high school, he worked as a driver for his brother’s limousine company. He and his friends answered an open casting call for Captain Phillips and Abdi ended up being cast as the lead pirate – his very first profession acting job. Abdi is known as this year’s Hollywood Cinderella story – from limousine driver to limousine passenger. For his breakout role, Abdi was nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and an Academy Award where he was considered the only real threat to Jared Leto’s near-guaranteed win. Abdi also won a BAFTA for his performance, as well as other critics awards.

A new article in The New Yorker suggests that the story is not quite the ‘rags to riches’ the public has been imagining. For his role in the film, made for $55 million, Abdi earned $65,000. To put that in perspective, Abdi was paid just a little bit more than Jonah Hill was for The Wolf of Wall Street, whose salary caused a media uproar after it was revealed in January.

After filming, Abdi returned to Minneapolis and worked as a cell phone salesman for his brother, but has since relocated to Los Angeles for promotional commitments and plans to move there permanently to pursue his acting career. During awards season, he has been living off a per diem from the film studio, which paid for his hotel. Abdi reportedly refused to let them pay for a driver, instead opting to stay at a low-key hotel near the Los Angeles airport where a friend could drive him for free.

His payday for the film was over two years ago, and with promotion for the film and awards season commitments, Abdi has not been making money, leaving him in an odd and uncertain position. And, while Abdi has not publicly discussed his current financial standing, it is being reported that the Oscar nominated actor is broke.

With no new projects lined up, Abdi’s future remains unclear, but The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Abdi is in talks to star in The Place That Hits The Sun, a film about Willie Mtolo, the South African man who ran in the 1992 New York Marathon, and his relationship with a white bar owner during apartheid.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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