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EXCLUSIVE: Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass Talk Powerful Final Scene from 'Captain Phillips' (VIDEO)

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by Bill Desowitz
December 20, 2013 4:27 PM
6 Comments
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Captain Phillips

But after messing up the first take, Albert gathered herself, calmly went through the examination, and Hanks took her lead. They only did four takes but he pretty much nailed it in the second one, letting the scene wash over him 

According to cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, who relied on his own documentary instincts in just letting the camera roll in the tiny room, the juxtaposition of Phillips' tragedy and Albert's professionalism meet in a way that you usually don't encounter in commercial movies. 

"I honestly don't remember much of it because it was done like a hot, white light but it did sort of get a sense of crescendo," Hanks admits. "Instinctual, yes, but the making of the movie was a very tactile thing, and so I was able to physically jump into the procedure that was happening to me. And that was probably another great advantage in the scene because I didn't have to do anything -- it all happened to me."

Hanks let it all out. But he had spoken to Phillips prior to the shoot about the post-traumatic stress he experienced for weeks, breaking down in the shower or waking up in great distress. He couldn't stop crying and a Navy SEAL told him not to fight it and let it flow out of his system. That's what Hanks accomplished.


Not surprisingly, the scene establishes its own dramatic arc, as Phillips enters the room in a state of shock. He's then overcome with fear before finally surrendering to his emotions as he lies down and snaps out of it. One of the highlights is when he gasps at the amount of blood on his body. Another is when he thanks the medic twice, calmly and then full of fear.

"I will tell you that the most tactile aspect of it was this woman's voice and this woman's touch," Hanks reveals. "And that was just total serendipity: that was the gods of fortune just smiling upon us that she was a woman in charge of the infirmary that day. And it ended up mirroring the question that Catherine Keener asked at the beginning of the movie, which was, 'Are we gonna be OK? Are we gonna make it through the future that's coming down the pike?' At the end, this woman is being nice to Richard Phillips; she's being kind and asking if he's OK. She's touching his scalp and it was powerful to be there and to be soothed by her."

Greengrass, who noticed a transformation in Hanks' performance after the first take, wasn't even present in the room during the second take because it was so cramped. "Actors are like the guys who go into the desert with a stick looking for the underground water that's going to save the community. The great actors -- and Tom is one of them -- are the truth diviners. Then you've got to have the courage to play that scene with absolute conviction and absolute control...because when you're dealing with such intense emotions; it's about the definition and the detail of it all. It's a spiritual moment."

By the end of the scene, you forget that you're watching Tom Hanks the movie star. He's become Captain Phillips. "Most of the time there's a language that helps you get there, but what was surprising about this is that we didn't know it was gonna happen," Hanks observes. "This just came out of nowhere but the entire movie was always being carried on your shoulders so it was all right. Moviemaking's a bitch sometimes -- it beats the shit out of you."


6 Comments

  • D Christie | January 26, 2014 9:38 AMReply

    Perhaps one of the most powerful and well executed scenes in cinematic history. The director should get an Oscar for this scene alone. The professionalism of Navy Personnel is something we all can be proud of.

  • JAB | December 21, 2013 9:40 PMReply

    Another aspect of this truly remarkable scene is that I think much of the audience was feeling exactly the same way Phillips/Hanks was with shock & relief at the end of the journey this incredibly intense film takes us through. I became a participantwhile watching this film.
    Paul Greengrass has made career putting us --the paying crowd-- through the wringer. He is probably my favorite active director.

  • Crystal | December 20, 2013 8:05 PMReply

    Wow, amazing story. That scene is so emotionally moving and quite honestly makes the film great. Completely agree with other commenter Mark.

  • Mark | December 20, 2013 6:05 PMReply

    Got to be honest with you. Hanks deserves the Oscar for that last scene alone. The entire cinema audience sat there shaken to the core. An electrifying cinema scene.

  • Max Fraley | December 20, 2013 5:46 PMReply

    The described scene is a short take in motion picture history that I, being 78 years old and viewing 1000's of movies, consider to be one of the finest performance moments in memory. It's been a month since I saw it and I think about it every day. Well done to Tom H. and all involved.

  • Gerard Kennelly | December 20, 2013 9:17 PM

    @ Max Fraley

    Dennis Quaid performance in AT ANY PRICE
    i saw it
    and i think about it every day

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