Flight Cast and Director Interview
Flight Cast and Director Interview
Denzel Washington, star of thrilling drama Flight, was joined by British co-star Kelly Reilly and the film’s director Robert Zemeckis to talk about the film and its brilliant script, how they all worked together to find the hard truth in the story and their performances, and the way good casting and good scripts create great films.
Denzel, I'm going to start by congratulating you on your Oscar nomination for this incredible role. When you read the script for the first time, was there a moment when it grabbed you, and you thought, 'I know who this guy is'?

Denzel Washington

I didn't necessarily say I know who he is, unfortunately, but it was just 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.
So when did you know who Whip was?

Denzel Washington

I still don't [laughs].
Is there ever a moment when you do know who a character is?

Denzel Washington

I don't know that you need to know who he is. It's all on the page in this case, it says who he is, and what he does and what he doesn't do.
Robert, this is your first live action film since the year 2000, after Castaway and What Lies Beneath. You didn't necessarily set out to make it that way, you weren't looking for something live action, is that the case?

Robert Zemeckis

I don't have any agenda of what tools I use to make a film, making a film for me is the same whether it's a live action film, or an animated film, or a digital film. However the images are created is just part of the process, so I make the films the same way. I wasn't really looking for a script being a digital film or a live action film, and then this came along, and obviously this had to be a live action film.
What was it about the script particularly that grabbed you?

Robert Zemeckis

Well, first of all it was so unique, and yet it was so bold, and it was brilliantly, brilliantly written, and it had great characters in it. Obviously Denzel's character, and all the characters were beautifully drawn. It was full of moral ambiguity, which I hadn't seen in a screenplay for a really long time. Everything about it, I loved.
Kelly, Robert once said that the scenes he enjoyed shooting the least in this film were your overdose scenes.

Kelly Reilly

Oh, really? I didn't know that.
Yes, that he got through them in one or two takes because he couldn't stand watching you in pain. How difficult were those to shoot for you and how much research did you do into drug addiction?

Kelly Reilly

It's weird, because I actually enjoyed doing those scenes! Because it's almost like, you know, I had to learn how to shoot up, I had no idea. So some actors have to learn how to play the guitar, for a part, and I had to learn how to do that. I wanted it to look like she was making coffee. Like this was shorthand, she's done this a hundred times. And it was almost sort of ritualistic, with the altar in front of her mother's photographs. I enjoyed going into that world; that might sound dark, but it was more that it was something I'd never done before, and the way that I knew Robert was shooting it was very sensitive. It was a small part of the movie for me, the heroin part.
Denzel, on the basis that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, your research into all of the things that it takes to be a pilot on one of those planes, all of the things that might go wrong, has it made you a better or worse flyer?

Denzel Washington

I think I'm the same as a flyer, no more or less afraid. We were allowed by Delta Airlines to use their flight simulators, which was great, I wish I could take one of those home. But we got in the same devices that the pilots practice on, so that was great, it gave me a sense of knowing what I'm doing. Even though I may not have been pushing the right button, I looked like I knew what I was doing!
So your first flight, perhaps, after finishing the film, was that an entirely stressful event for you?

Denzel Washington

No, I was flying during the film, so it didn't bother me at all.
Let's extend the question to everyone else, has this film made you a nervous flyer? I saw it for the first time about two hours after coming off a plane, and I'm glad I saw it that way round, and not the other way round.

Robert Zemeckis

No, I believe that flying is a very safe form of transportation, I believe the statistic that you're more likely to get killed in an automobile than you are in an aeroplane.

Kelly Reilly

I'm not scared of flying but I was terrified in the movie theatre when I saw that sequence. I was wondering, actually, I've been meaning to ask you if this is being shown on planes?

Robert Zemeckis

Today, maybe, when you get your own DVD, but they're not going to show it communally!
You guys all say that flying's safe, but try telling yourself that in a plane struck by lightning, or when you hit a downdraft - one of these incidents must have happened to you - was there a moment when you uttered, as many of us have done, a prayer to get you through serious turbulence? And also, will there be a special process you go through in terms of good luck when you prepare for your Oscar?

Denzel Washington

No, there's no process with the Oscars. I've been on planes that have been struck by lightning, and hit some pretty rough air. The time to worry about flying is when you're on the ground. No point in worrying about it in the air, it's too late, there's nothing you can do about it anyway. In fact, one flight that I was on that was particularly rough, it was a private plane and the flight attendant - I had to calm her down! I was like, 'You're supposed to be helping me!' She got a little upset.
A question for the actors: Robert mentioned the moral ambiguity of the characters, how did you retain audience sympathy throughout the journey, especially with Whip's character?

Denzel Washington

I don't worry about that, I just play the part. I'm not thinking, 'Oh, I've got to make sure they love me', or not, you just interpret the role. Ultimately, you don't know what the director's going to use anyway, you know.

Kelly Reilly

I saw the trailer and thought I'd been cut out of the movie entirely! As an actor you don't have any control over that, like you said - you just don't know. And it is an exercise of trust, and surrender. That's why you want to work with good directors who are going to be sensitive to the work you're doing, and respond to it, if it's any good. Like Denzel said, you just play the character as truthfully as you can. Good and bad, light and dark, and all those things that we all are. There's no point in playing a saintly character, or trying to be loved. I don't like seeing that in movies, when actors do that. I'd much rather see somebody a bit more complicated than that.

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Content updated: 07/12/2019 02:06

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