Samantha Ofole Prince
Robert Zemeckis is in an affable mood, and he has good reason to be. His latest motion picture “Flight,” which marks his return to live-action dramatic storytelling, has sparked endless conversations about morality and dilemma, and for the director, that’s a good thing.
“The characters in this movie are all sorts of shaded grey,” says Zemeckis. “They aren’t the typical ‘good guys, bad guys,’ and everyone in the film is, to some degree, damaged and that is the dramatic engine for the piece.”
Whether it’s “Cast Away,” or “Forrest Gump,” strong characters with compelling emotional journeys anchor all of his films, including “Flight.”
A movie which stars Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly and John Goodman, “Flight” is the story of an airline pilot, Whip Whitaker (Washington), who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly every soul on board. Afterwards, Whip is hailed as a hero, but as more is learned, more questions than answers arise as to who he really is, and what really happened on Flight 227. It soon becomes apparent during the investigation that he had consumed alcohol prior to the flight and could face possible criminal negligence charges, despite his heroic efforts. It’s a character study about a guy really struggling with his own demons and what should have been a typical day of work for him becomes a series of unfortunate events.
“Whip was put in a defective plane and still managed to save all those lives, says Zemeckis. “What’s interesting about it is that the suspense in the movie comes from the uncertainty of what the characters are going to do and how they are going to respond. It’s rare to find a screenplay that has that kind of depth and complexity.”
Zemeckis, who won an Academy Award for directing “Castaway,” also directed the classic action comedy “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” “Back to the Future, Part I, II and III,” and has a remarkable ability to handle both the technical and the human aspects of a film’s creative process.
“There is just a level of pure cinematic mastery in watching Bob work,” shares Washington.” He is completely knowledgeable in every aspect of the technology of filmmaking. There isn’t a job on the set that he does not understand or couldn’t do himself.”
For Washington, “Flight” marks the first time the Academy Award winning actor has worked with Zemeckis, and there were endless conversations with the director and screenwriter John Gatins about his character. It was during these conversations, Washington says, that Whip began to materialize for him.
“John Gatins and Bob Zemeckis thoroughly understood this character,” Washington continues, “And every now and then, that kind of collaboration works. You can have the same great people in a room with a great script and still screw it up. In this case, I think Bob fashioned a terrific film, and I was just a part of that process. I got a lot of the character work done just sitting in that room with Bob and John, working on the script.”
Rounding off the cast of “Flight” is British actress Kelly Reilly who plays a troubled young woman struggling with her own issues of substance abuse, who befriends Whip, Don Cheadle as a Chicago-based defense attorney, and Goodman who plays Whip’s closest friend.
“There’s a wonderful quote by Francois Truffaut which I subscribe to,” shares Zemeckis. “He said that a movie that works is the perfect blend of truth and spectacle. And whenever I can find a screenplay that has both of those aspects, those are movies that I gravitate to. ‘Flight’ is that kind of movie. It’s a hopeful, redemptive human story that’s wrapped in this very dramatic and intense spectacle. And to me that’s what movies are all about.”
“Flight” releases in theaters November 2