Backstory of Poignant 'Phillips' Infirmary Scene


Moviegoers may find it hard to believe, but one of the most riveting scenes in Captain Phillips wasn't scripted. Director Paul Greengrass explains how it came about.

The poignant infirmary scene with Tom Hanks in the based-on-a-true-story drama Captain Phillips is receiving plenty of acclaim and may be the difference-maker in earning Hanks an Oscar for his performance, but it wasn't even initially supposed to take place.

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In ETonline's exclusive clip from The Los Angeles Times' The Envelope Screening Series Q&A in association with EPIX, director Paul Greengrass explains that they were initially shooting another scene that wasn't quite reaching his directorial expectations, but then a change of scenery brought an impromptu gem of cinematic genius.

With no script, a real nurse who'd never acted before, and Tom Hanks in the infirmary, Greengrass set cameras rolling. Although the first couple takes were disastrous, the English director knew he'd stumbled upon something spectacular inside the room.

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"You could tell, just in that moment, [that] there was something in the room that was real," Greengrass says.

After the first take, he and Hanks discussed tapping into the emotion of the scene while still exercising the right amount of control. The result was golden, but Greengrass credits the scene to good fortune, more than anything.

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"It was just a lucky...moment, but that's so much of filmmaking," he said. "You can try and stack the odds for you, but in the end, all of it's luck, you know? The luck of the moment."

Watch the exclusive clip above for more from Greengrass on the fascinating backstory behind the scene, and click here for more information on The Los Angeles Times' The Envelope Screening Series in association with EPIX.