Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: New Full Length, U.S. Trailer For Horror Sensation 'It Follows' Watch: New Full Length, U.S. Trailer For Horror Sensation 'It Follows' George Clooney Pushes For VOD Release Of 'The Interview,' Calls Out Hollywood For Lack Of Courage George Clooney Pushes For VOD Release Of 'The Interview,' Calls Out Hollywood For Lack Of Courage Watch: The Style Of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Terrence Malick & More Recreated With Stock Footage Watch: The Style Of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Terrence Malick & More Recreated With Stock Footage Watch: Take A 96-Minute Masterclass On The Art Of Filmmaking With Alfred Hitchcock Watch: Take A 96-Minute Masterclass On The Art Of Filmmaking With Alfred Hitchcock Paramount Bans Screenings Of 'Team America: World Police' Paramount Bans Screenings Of 'Team America: World Police' First Look: Ewan McGregor As Jesus & The Cast Of Sundance Drama ‘Last Days In The Desert’ First Look: Ewan McGregor As Jesus & The Cast Of Sundance Drama ‘Last Days In The Desert’ Sony Says "No Further Release Plans" for 'The Interview,' Steve Carell's 'Pyongyang' Canceled In Wake Of North Korea Hacks Sony Says "No Further Release Plans" for 'The Interview,' Steve Carell's 'Pyongyang' Canceled In Wake Of North Korea Hacks Sony Officially Yanks 'The Interview' From Release Following Hacker Threats Sony Officially Yanks 'The Interview' From Release Following Hacker Threats Listen: Patton Oswalt's Great Story About A Live Read Of Jerry Lewis’ 'The Day The Clown Cried' Gone Wrong Listen: Patton Oswalt's Great Story About A Live Read Of Jerry Lewis’ 'The Day The Clown Cried' Gone Wrong Watch: Study Cinema History With Full Doc 'A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies' Watch: Study Cinema History With Full Doc 'A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies' Watch: Inevitable Trailer Mashup 'The Dark Knight Of Cups' Watch: Inevitable Trailer Mashup 'The Dark Knight Of Cups' Listen: Jonny Greenwood's Full Score For Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Listen: Jonny Greenwood's Full Score For Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Baffling First Official Synopsis For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Unveiled Baffling First Official Synopsis For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Unveiled Criterion's March 2015 Lineup Includes Two From Errol Morris, Francois Truffaut's 'The Soft Skin' And More Criterion's March 2015 Lineup Includes Two From Errol Morris, Francois Truffaut's 'The Soft Skin' And More Watch: Celebrate The Cinematic Year With 300 Films From 2014 In 8 1/2 Minutes Watch: Celebrate The Cinematic Year With 300 Films From 2014 In 8 1/2 Minutes ‘Doctor Strange’ Mentor Shortlist Revealed; Morgan Freeman Among Names ‘Doctor Strange’ Mentor Shortlist Revealed; Morgan Freeman Among Names 'Spider-Man' Still Has A Possibility Of Going Back To Marvel, But Without Andrew Garfield 'Spider-Man' Still Has A Possibility Of Going Back To Marvel, But Without Andrew Garfield Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' 21 Movies About Weird, Kinky Or Compulsive Sex 21 Movies About Weird, Kinky Or Compulsive Sex 16 Great Revenge Movies Worth Hunting Down 16 Great Revenge Movies Worth Hunting Down

NYFF: Robert Zemeckis And Cast Discuss The Making Of 'Flight'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist October 14, 2012 at 3:25PM

In "Flight," Robert Zemeckis makes a return to the world of live-action filmmaking with the story of Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a pilot who performs a heroic task in engaging in risky aerial manuevers to save a crashing plane. But the morality is not that simple, as Whitaker saves one hundred lives while inebriated. However, misconception has dogged the project since its inception, and screenwriter John Gatins was on hand during the New York Film Festival screening to clarify that the story is not based on the 2009 crash where a plane was preserved by controversial pilot Chealsey "Sully" Sullenberger.
0
Robert Zemeckis, Denzel, Flight

In "Flight," Robert Zemeckis makes a return to the world of live-action filmmaking with the story of Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a pilot who performs a heroic task in engaging in risky aerial manuevers to save a crashing plane. But the morality is not that simple, as Whitaker saves one hundred lives while inebriated. However, misconception has dogged the project since its inception, and screenwriter John Gatins was on hand during the New York Film Festival screening to clarify that the story is not based on the 2009 crash where a plane was preserved by controversial pilot Chealsey "Sully" Sullenberger. 

Gatins recounts, "I was in Arizona during a car show and I got emails from people who were like, 'oh my God, this guy lands a plane and it's just like your script,' and I was like, 'I don't think you understand what I'm trying to do!" The screenplay, in the works since 1999, is actually based on Gatins' very primal fears. "It was kind of borne out of my two greatest fears, which were drinking myself to death and dying in a plane crash," Gatins says.

Though substance abuse is at the heart of the picture, Zemeckis wanted not to get bogged down in making addiction a monster. "I approached it thinking that Whip's substance abuse is basically a symptom of what his real problem is, having this disconnect from everybody and everything, and this sort of brokeness," Zemeckis says. "I never felt that it was a recovery movie, it was about human brokeness, if that's a term. For me it was very clear that these characters had to be presented very honestly."

Flight, Cheadle, Denzel, Greenwood

Washington signed on after a dry read of the script, revealing, "It was just a great screenplay. And my agent said Bob Zemeckis wants to do this film, so those two elements, that's all it took." Paramount essentially gave cast and crew free reign, which resulted in a smooth forty-five day shoot. However, emotionally, the story had its own intriguing dark alleys and concepts.

"I talked to a lot of pilots, and I would say, I'm trying to write this story about an alcoholic commercial airline pilot," Gatins recalls. "And I got the same response. There'd be a pause and they'd say, yeah, I knew a guy. A lot of these guys come from a military culture, and that's a heavy drinking culture. They pointed me in the direction of several airline accidents, and they tried to make some things as believable as possible."

Adds Zemeckis, "We had a lot of professionals who helped us in making the movie. We previewed the movie in a lot of places over the summer, and we got comments on comment cards, and we got quite a few of them saying, I've been in the airline business for years, thank you for making this movie." While many have found the initial tactic, which involves the airplane shifting upside down in midair, a little extreme, Zemeckis considered it vital to stay true to the logistics of the scenario. "We spoke to aviation experts and tried to make it as real as we could," he says. He credits his experience working with mo-cap the last few years in capturing the flight sequence effects. "One of the reasons we were able to do this movie so inexpensively was basically a result of all the digital cinema I've been doing," Zemeckis admits. "So I have all these great young artists who were able to [put it together]. There are 300 [digital] shots in this movie. Hopefully you don't see them, but there's a lot of digital work in this film."

Denzel Washington Flight

There's a darkness at the core of the film, however, due to Whitaker's complex character relationships. In John Goodman's bombastic drug hook-up, he has a sadistic enabler, and Goodman clearly knows where he stands with this character, claiming, "You sell some cheap drinks and you think you're providing a service. And you're not!" Meanwhile, a helpful colleague played by Bruce Greenwood points to the fallability of his friendship with Whitaker, as Greenwood says, "For me it was about desperately wanting to trust a friend who was giving you signals that he cannot pull it off."

As Whitaker's lawyer, Don Cheadle came away with his own very particular view of who his character represented. "I was speaking to Robert and I said, so what's the big idea behind this character?" remembers Cheadle. "And he said, well we think he's the devil. So I thought that was intriguing, this lawyer who has to do what I consider to be his job, what he owes this client. But at the end of the day he's trying to keep Denzel avoiding his responsibility."

That ambiguity was the key to the script, claims Gatins. He says of Whitaker, "He's a guy that you want to like. As I was working on the script and thinking where it should land story-wise, I wanted it to come into the last turn of the script thinking, I'm not sure what I'm rooting for. This guy did this amazing thing and saved all these lives. Did he earn this pass, even though he did committ a felony by being high and drunk on the plane? On the flipside, you could have had Brian Geraghty's [copilot] character flying that plane, straight as an arrow, and he couldn't have done what Whip did. So I wanted to create that dilemma for audiences who say, if he lies, I'm not sure if I feel good or bad about that."

Clarifies Zemeckis, "I think we can expect that we won't be seeing the movie in-flight, though."

"Flight" opens November 2nd.

This article is related to: New York Film Festival , Flight, Robert Zemeckis, Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates