The two-time Academy Award winner– who in 1990, won Best Supporting Actor for Glory, and in 2002, won Best Actor for Training Day– surrenders himself completely in a wonderfully uncompromising portrayal as Captain “Whip” Whitaker, a tenured commercial airline pilot whose unparalleled heroics pale by comparison to his camouflaged addictions.
Flight is the turbulent exploration into a flawed hero’s demise.
“Whip” Whitaker saved dozens of souls albeit six deaths resulted aboard a damaged aircraft destined for failure. But he could not salvage his own, out-of-control, downward spiraling life that left him exposed and vulnerable. Called into question by an intense NTSB probe, “Whip” tries to coast his way through the most sobering challenge he has ever faced.
How does a public hero reconcile the fragile line between remorse– living a private hell, haunted by a family who sees him as a disgrace –yet heralded by the media as a savior?
Flight surges with emotion, propelled by a finely crafted script from John Gatins (Real Steel, Coach Carter), equally tinged with a dynamic cast including Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Oscar nominee Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), John Goodman (Argo), Bruce Greenwood (Déjà vu), Tamara Tunie (TV’s Law & Order SVU), Nadine Valazquez (War) and Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes).
During press rounds in Beverly Hills, Washington sat recently with several cast members to discuss the compelling drama, directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact, Real Steel).
Commitment to making a film that posits him in an unflattering role compared to his dashing good looks –
Washington: When I read the script, I just said, ‘wow this is good.’ The last two scripts my late agent (Ed Limato, who passed away July 2010) gave me were Flight and Safe House. I made him a promise to do these films. When I’m asked what I want audiences to get from these films, I say, ‘it depends on what they bring to it.’ So I don’t try to decide what people should get… I don’t do a part for those kinds of reasons.
Complete surrender to a character that is at opposite ends of his personal life coupled with scenes that are tough to pull off—
Washington: Tough spots for me are pictures I don’t want to be on. People say, “What’s the hardest part of making movies?” If you’re on a movie and it’s only the third day of the shoot with 120 days left and you’re asking, ‘how many days do we have left?’ That’s a tough movie for me but this was an adventure. The collaboration with the filmmaker (Flight brought Washington and Zemeckis together for a first time film project), getting the chance to fly around in flight simulators, hanging upside down in the plane, playing a drunk, it was all…well, I won’t say it was easy. I don’t know if it was painful but the scene when I go to my ex-wife’s house and get into this wrestling match with my son. I’ve gotten into wrestling matches with my own son; it’s not quite the same circumstance but your nerves are raw and that sticks out.
Confidence in making the right decision once the dotted line is signed–
Washington: If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage. And it’s very rare. I go through a ton of scripts, but when I get one that seems as if you’ve read it in 14 minutes because you’re turning pages so fast and you can’t wait to see what is going to happen. This was one of those scripts and I had to have it; had to be a part of it. It was a process for us once I got involved but it was on the page: the guts, the pain, the tears. It’s like a Eugene O’Neill play, the tears were all on the page.
FLIGHT, a Paramount Pictures release, is suggested for mature audiences; contains drug use, alcohol and nudity.