Published April 16, 2009
Capt. Chelsea "Sully" Sullenberger landed his US Airways plane in the middle of New York's Hudson River in January without losing a soul in the process, and less than two months later, he landed another whopper: A two-book deal worth $3.2 million.
So what's afloat for the recently-rescued Capt. Richard Phillips – who was held hostage by Somali pirates for five days before being saved by US Navy SEAL snipers on Sunday?
The world may be his oyster. Or maybe not.
"Anything heroic is something people want – what with the current economic situation, people want something to hang onto," says Sam Haskell, former worldwide head for television at the William Morris Agency. "To maximize it in the right way should be of the biggest concern to him."
Haskell predicts a book and a movie, at the very least, for Phillips. "People are clamoring to represent him and get him those rights."
Another top Hollywood agent says the best-case scenario for Phillips is a "seven-figure deal" for his life rights, to be featured on television and in a book.
But there are qualifications. Hardly anything is known about the captain, which makes crunching numbers a challenge.
"The amount he can make on his life rights deal depends on the leverage he has, and how many different producers are trying to get the property," explains Renee Tab, literary manager and producer at Artist Talent Management.
"It can start at literally a free option, and go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars," she adds.
Or, millions – if he's received like Sully. But as a "Great Unknown," no one knows if he can translate his heroism into fame or cash. Perhaps Capt. Phillips isn't as well-spoken as Sullenberger. Perhaps he has a creepy undercurrent – a la Octomom Nadya Suleman.
"Nobody knows much about this guy," says David Schwab, vice-president and managing director of Octagon First Call, a celebrity acquisition and activation service. "Everyone's intrigued, it's such a heartwarming story. And if the scoop is similar to Sully, then it's the beginning of a new career."
Experts suggest that one other source of revenue for Phillips may be in his "endorsement" value.
"The Captain's story should immediately put him in the $30,000-plus per-speech category," says Schwab. "If his story and personality traits connect and motivate business audiences and consumers, expect increased demand, fees and longevity on the circuit. If not, expect it to be a 2009-only market for him."
But, adds Schwab, if he can finesse his story and appeal to a larger audience, his "book potential will be as strong as the mid-six figures or more."
What Phillips probably can't do – at least in the near future – is expect for things to go back to normal. According to Schwab, he needs to be as patient as those Navy SEALS before making any big moves.
"He has time now," says Schwab. "He doesn't have to do the media interview tomorrow – now's the time to relax, get a feel for what he wants to do and not rush into anything. This entire story – it's not going away."