With an eat-your-heart-out performance from Denzel Washington, a breathtaking script and butt-clenching SFX, it’s no surprise that Flight has already been nominated for not one but two Academy Awards. (Denzel Washington for and John Gatins for Best Original Screenplay.) FilmJuice caught up with the film’s star, Denzel Washington, co-star Kelly Reilly, director Robert Zemeckis and producers Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey to discover just what it takes make a film that leaves harden-bitten critics open-mouthed with awe.
With an eat-your-heart-out performance from
Denzel Washington, a breathtaking script and butt-clenching SFX, it’s no
surprise that Flight has already been nominated for not one but two Academy Awards. (Denzel
Washington for and John Gatins for Best Original
caught up with the film’s star, Denzel Washington, co-star Kelly Reilly, director
Robert Zemeckis and producers Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey to discover just
what it takes make a film that leaves harden-bitten critics open-mouthed with
Q. Robert, what was it about this film that
particularly grabbed you?
Robert: It was so bold and brilliantly,
brilliantly written and had these great characters in it … and there was this
whole moral ambiguity which I hadn’t seen in a screenplay in a really long
time. Everything about it, I loved.
Q: Denzel, when you read the script for the
first time, was there a moment you thought “I know who this guy is. I can play
Denzel: I wouldn’t necessarily say I know
who he is, fortunately. But yeah, it was such a good script, it was such an
easy read, a page-turner, and there was no question about it when I finished
the last page, I said “I’m doing this,” I called my agent right away and I
said, “I’m in”.
Q: Kelly, Robert said that the scenes he
enjoyed shooting least were your overdose scenes because he couldn’t stand
watching you in pain. How difficult were those scenes?
Kelly: It’s weird because I actually
enjoyed doing those scenes! Because it’s almost like, you know, I had to learn
to shoot up! … Some actors have to learn to play the guitar for a part [but] I had to learn how to do that.
And I wanted to make it look like she was making coffee, you know, like … she’s
done this a hundred times. And it was almost ritualistic, with the sort of
altar in front of her of her mother’s photographs and I enjoyed going into that
world. That might sound dark but it was … something I had never done before and
the way that Robert was shooting it was very sensitive.
Steve, as a producer, can you talk about the challenge of mounting a
scene like the plane crash?
Steve: Well you know, first of all it was a
very physical scene so it had its dangers even on the set. We created these aircrafts [and] in
order to simulate this harrowing flight, we had to put on devices to get it to
shake and … then eventually … we put it in a giant rotisserie rig. We actually turned it upside down with
the performers, including Denzel, inside. And then, the rest of it was created
through the use of visual effects… So it was a big blend but it was done very
economically and Bob [Zemekis] had to use everything that he knew in order to
use every penny we had to make it as terrifying as he could.
Q: Robert, there is a duality about the way
Whip is portrayed in the film. He is often stripped bare but there are times
when he is shot almost like a rockstar. Can you talk about your approach to his
character as a director?
Robert: Well… it was all inspired by the
screenplay. It was very obvious the way the screenplay was written that Whip
was doing whatever he could to charm someone or to con someone and it was all
written that way. It wasn’t my design to try to … manipulate the audience to
like someone who was doing something that might have been morally
reprehensible. That was in the original screenplay … That’s what was so unique
about the piece.
Q: Robert, can you explain more about your
approach to directing?
Robert: There’s an old saying that good
directing is good casting and good writing and I subscribe to that. I mean, we
went through a long process of talking about the characters and the screenplay.
Sometimes in groups, sometimes one on one for many hours … Whether I was doing
any directing at that point, I don’t know. Basically, my process is just to act
the movie out the way I see it, and answer any questions there might be about
the characters rather than to try to force a performance of any kind … My
feeling is that where actors go to get that is their job. And I kind of don’t
want to know.
Kelly: You don’t want to know?
Robert: I don’t want to know! Because
sometimes it’s pretty scary, so I just try to lay out the character and then
they’ll go off and find it.
Q: Denzel and Kelly, what was that like?
Kelly: It’s not like rehearsing a play
where you get 5/6 weeks to do the scenes … It feels like freefalling to me …
rather than a rehearsal. But it surprises you because you don’t know what the
other actor is going to bring … I enjoy working like that on film. Never want
to do it on stage … But I do disagree with Bob when he was saying that he
didn’t direct us because I remember some wonderful notes you whispered in my
ear that really made, the hair on my arms stand … he certainly was my Captain.
Q: Flight takes place on a fictional
Airline. Was there ever a plan to use a real airline?
John: A real airline would never give us
permission to film this movie. They don’t want even a hint of an alcoholic
pilot in the cockpit. And even the manufacturers had a big problem with that we
were going to associate a particular plane with a potential mechanical failure.
So we had to modify both the airline and the plane so that the plane is not a
replica of any one particular plane that actually exists.
Q: Kelly, you’ve said in past interviews,
that you’ve never wished to embrace the celebrity lifestyle?
Kelly: No sir!
Q: Are you at all concerned that, if you
carry on making great movies like this, that you might become a celebrity by
Kelly: I don’t like the word ‘celebrity’
full-stop. If I become a good actress and [am] in movies where I’m respected
[as] a good actress … that’s different to being what I consider a celebrity. My
job is an actor and that’s what I’m passionate about. I’m so privileged to be
able to do this job for a living … I heard that Kate Winslet … she puts her hat
on and looks down at her feet and doesn’t draw attention to herself. I believe
you can do it! It’s how you choose to live your life and I don’t see that
problem encroaching on my life anytime soon.
Denzel: You know, that can even have an
effect on you over time. Because it’s not natural to put a hat on and have your
head down because you’re missing life.
Kelly: Yeah? How do you deal with it?
Denzel: You know, an old West Indian woman
told me that when you pray for rain you gotta deal with the mud. Everything is
a trade off.
Q: Kelly, actors normally say that every
film set is the same once you’re shooting, but were there any marked contrasts
to being on the set of a major Hollywood movie to a British film?
Kelly: I have to say I didn’t feel like I
was on this huge, big set … because it was very intimate and I wasn’t
involved in any of the special effects … I’ve done a lot of films where there
have been 12 producers behind all their monitors and … I’m aware of that and
that’s scary but I didn’t feel that on this movie at all.
Q: Kelly and Denzel, you’ve now played two
very deeply wounded and complex characters and done it brilliantly but was
there ever a time when you were playing somebody onscreen and thought “God
Almighty, I got away with that and I didn’t get anywhere close to that person”?
Denzel: Flight! Seriously. You never get
it, you know. First of all, I’m not watching myself while I’m working. You just
trust the pilot – trust the director – and you do the work. If you feel too
good about a scene then … you’re too busy watching yourself.
Kelly: I truly believe that part of my job
as an actor is, sort of, [to] drive myself off that cliff into the dark and
feel almost like you don’t know whether or not it’s going to work. I always
finish a day and someone will say “How was your day. How were your scenes?” and
I’ll say “I don’t know!”
Q: The film brilliantly reminds us just how
heroic real-life pilots and airline stewardesses can be. Have you got any
feedback from pilots or from stewardesses?
John: We previewed the movie all over and I
must tell you that in almost every preview … there would be someone who would
write something like, “I’ve been in the airline industry for 35 years and thank
you for making this movie”. So we’ve actually gotten very positive feedback
from the airline industry … because, in truth, we portray everything – the good
stuff and the bad stuff – honestly. And that’s all you can actually hope for.
Flight opens across the UK on 1st