Real-Life Navy Medic Gets Surprise Acting Debut Opposite Tom Hanks

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Adam Pockross
·Content Producer
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SPOILER ALERT (If you think there are spoilers in a ripped-from-the-headlines true story.)

It's stressful enough working in the sickbay aboard a U.S. naval vessel without having to act opposite one of the world's best thespians.

But at a moment's notice, Navy Hospital Corpsman Danielle Albert had to do exactly that, going toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks in the Oscar-bait final scene of "Captain Phillips."

In director Paul Greengrass's high seas, high stakes thriller, Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, the real-life Merchant Marine taken hostage during the very public 2009 Somali pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship. While remaining effectively true to the story, the film captures all the drama of the hijacking, the tense hostage standoff, and the daring rescue by the Navy SEALs.

[Related: Q&A: Tom Hanks Takes Us to Sea]

After two edge-of-your-seat hours, Phillips is finally taken safely aboard the USS Bainbridge missile destroyer, played with aplomb by her sister ship, the USS Truxtun. Phillips is taken down to the ship's infirmary and checked out by the ship's hospital corpsman (i.e. the medic), played by Albert, the actual corpsman aboard the Truxtun.

In the infirmary, Phillips, who has kept remarkable composure throughout the whole ordeal, finally allows the emotions of the past four days to come out. And boy, does Hanks let it out.

While that scene may very well be the one that gets Oscar voters attention, it wasn't originally supposed to be in the movie at all.

"That scene that was in the infirmary, we stumbled upon it by accident, because it actually happened," Hanks told Yahoo Movies over the phone. "The captain of the actual Bainbridge, the ship that was involved in the rescue of Phillips, said 'Well, you know, I didn't meet him till after he came out of the infirmary.' And we didn't even know that. So Paul [Greengrass] said, 'Let's go look at the infirmary.' We went down, and we met the staff down there, and they were up for it."

"While Tom was getting ready for that scene, I said to [Albert], 'Just treat it like a regular military exercise,'" said Greengrass during a press conference. "It'll be entirely routine – just it'll be Tom Hanks."

"So we kind of shot this training drill, except we made it look like it was real," said Hanks.

As instructed, Albert treated the scene as she'd been trained to react to a similar real-life scenario. Well, after freaking out a little first.

"It was very, very intimidating," Albert told "CBS This Morning" in the video below. "Tom Hanks came around the corner and I froze. I didn't know what to do. It was terrible. I broke out in hives. It was bad."

[Related -- Tom Hanks: Diabetes Is Not Going to Kill Me]

To relax her, Hanks jokingly asked Albert if perhaps she was the one who needed medical attention.

"And we did it again, and I did it exactly, exactly what I would do in a real situation," said Albert.

"As I recall, the first take sort of fell apart, both for technical reasons and because everybody was just kind of like, finding it. And we just said 'Hey, let's remember, this isn't a test. Nobody can make a mistake. Everything's going to work.' And so we just did it again a few times, and the end result is what Paul got," said Hanks.

What Greengrass got is a scene that may just go down in the annals as one of Hanks's finest moments on film. It's certainly Albert's, though in the grand scheme of things, we're sure she plays a more important role every day.

"Captain Phillips" is in theaters now.

See Navy Hospital Corpsman Danielle Albert at the 6:30 mark of CBS This Morning's story: