Robert Zemeckis makes live-action return in ‘Flight’

Director Robert Zemeckis (center) and Denzel Washington (right) work on the set of the new movie “Flight,” which opens in theaters Nov. 2. Photo courtesy Robert Zuckerman

The new Robert Zemeckis-directed film “Flight” recently premiered at the New York Film Festival and has already been garnering praise from critics for its gripping story, compelling characters and stellar crew performances.

The movie, which stars Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle and John Goodman, marks Zemeckis’ return to live-action directing, his last movie being the 2000 drama “Cast Away.”

“There wasn’t one reason why I decided to go back to live-action,” Zemeckis said during a conference call with college journalists. “It is nice to not have to censor yourself and step away from the family fare, I suppose. But the real reason I did this movie, though, was much simpler: It was the best script I’ve seen in a while and the screenplay couldn’t be rendered digitally.”

“Flight” centers on pilot Whip Whitaker (Washington), an exceptionally capable airline pilot who struggles with multiple substance abuse problems. Whitaker miraculously saves an airliner in the midst of a nosedive, making an impromptu emergency landing and saving those on board. But a subsequent investigation of the crash reveals that Whitaker was drunk at the time of the emergency landing, setting the entire narrative of the movie in motion.

The role marks a decidedly darker turn for Denzel, as he takes on his most flawed character since his portrayal of the corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in “Training Day.”

“As a director, I feel I’m drawn to deeply flawed heroes because people are imperfect,” Zemeckis saitd. “Perfect heroes aren’t real; they aren’t deep. You need troubled humans when you create a narrative. Those are the characters that lend themselves to the most drama.”

Zemeckis said that he always looks forward to working with talented actors, and that the opportunity to work with Washington was something he anticipated for a long time.

“Denzel was always my first choice for this role,” he said. “He’s one of the best actors alive and I just felt he was an actor who brought all the power and ability to reach down into his inner self to pull off this performance. I would consider myself to be very fortunate to get to work with him again in the future.”

As with all of Zemeckis’ past films, this film uses special effects to help add to the suspense and thrill of the story. In one of the defining shots of the film, Whitaker has to invert the airliner to help break it out of its nosedive. The shot, Zemeckis said, was one of the hardest he has ever had to shoot.

“I like to use special effects in all of my work. I feel like it adds to the texture and spectacle of it all, but that was a hard shot,” he said. “We put a lot of research into it. We looked at other films where they shot upside-down flight scenes. I remember this one film, where they just moussed up all of the passengers’ hair and turned the camera upside-down. I promise you, ours is nothing like that, and that this film will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”

October 21, 2012


Robert Pursell

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