BOP Interview: Robert Zemeckis
By Ryan Mazie
November 1, 2012
“Francois Truffaut has one of my favorite quotes,” said director Robert Zemeckis during a roundtable interview, “Someone asked him what makes a good movie and he said, ‘A good movie is the perfect blend of truth and spectacle.’” Zemeckis’s latest film Flight is evidence of his subscription to that belief. Dark, harrowing, and raw are not words that typically come to mind when thinking of ways to describe films by the director of such classics as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away, but Zemeckis changes things up for his return to live-action filmmaking after spending the last decade working with motion-capture (The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol).
The spectacle of Flight happens almost immediately, with a chillingly jaw-dropping plane crash sequence that sets the film’s weighty tone, which deals with the truths of relationships and addiction as coping mechanisms. However, the spectacle continues throughout the film with phenomenal performances by the cast members. Denzel Washington plays troubled pilot Whip Whitaker, who adverts disaster by dangerously inverting a crashing commercial airliner to ease the blow of impact and save the souls on board. Hailed as a daring hero by the media, an investigation finds that Whip was high on cocaine and alcohol during the flight.
Flight chronicles Whip’s personal struggles with dramatic ambiguity. Other actors who fall under a grey area of good and evil include Don Chedale as Whip’s powerhouse attorney to fight the drug charges, Kelly Reilly as Whip’s love interest, who is a heroin-abuser in recovery, and John Goodman as Whip’s supplier.
A master class in acting, Zemeckis talks about what drew him to the piece, returning to live action, his directing technique, and Denzel’s swagger.
So I read that you are a pilot. Did that have any relevance to your attachment to the film?
RZ: It only helped in me trying to make sure that everything we did was realistic. But it didn’t inspire me to make the movie.
Then what drew you to the film?
RZ: The ambiguity of it all. Whenever I get a chance to read a screenplay that keeps me wanting to turn the page, that’s a good start. But I loved that there was so much gray within all of the characters... they didn’t fall on the obvious good or bad side of the scale. They all were broken and basically human. And yet, the piece was very dramatic and I thought that this was very unique and that’s what drew me to it.
There is a great amount of ambiguity with the characters. Have you come up with answers for yourself yet on where you stand on the issues or are you still flip-flopping? Flight has been with you for a much longer time than with us who just saw it and are still debating about it.
RZ: That’s good. I’m hoping that people keep talking about the movie. The worst thing that can happen to a movie is that everyone comes out and goes, “Where do you want to eat?” and never give it another thought. So I’m pleased that it’s sticking with you.