Ever since I first heard word of Robert Zemeckis’s “Flight” back in the early summer, and certainly since the trailer dropped some time later, it’s been at the top of my list of anticipations for the year. It’s exciting to me that a mid-budget, adult, character-driven drama from a major director with a movie star at its center has been made. They seem all too rare.
It was doubly exciting to see the New York Film Festival tap the film as its closing night gala, part of a defining 50th anniversary slate that really announces the fest as a significant stop for awards season contenders. I’m counting the days until that premiere and my fingers are crossed that all the positive word I’ve heard on the film bears out.
Meanwhile, though, there’s a foundation being laid. We’ve had Denzel Washington tapped for potential Best Actor consideration every since we first launched the Contenders section for the 2012-2013 Oscar season, but you can finally see the gears turning on the upcoming campaign.
The New York Times’ Terrence Rafferty got a look at the film in advance of the fest for the purposes of writing a profile of sorts on Washington in today’s Sunday edition. Somewhat clumsily pitched as a “what makes him tick” kind of piece, Rafferty nevertheless gets some nice thoughts from a few of the actor’s past and present collaborators.
Here’s John Goodman, who co-stars in “Flight” and also starred with Washington in 1998’s “Fallen”:
“He”s one of those cats who does a lot of preparation, which makes him very easy to work with.”
And Jonathan Demme, who directed Washington in 1993’s “Philadelphia” and 2004’s “The Manchurian Candidate”:
“I think of him as an architect. When he arrives on the set he”s ready to start building the scene…It was Denzel who made me realize, ‘Oh yeah, it”s the actors who are the final storytellers, really.” We prepare the production and set up the shots, but then the camera is rolling, and the actors are telling the story of the movie. All the great actors are great storytellers, they have to be.”
And how about Norman Jewison, who directed the actor in Best Picture nominee “A Soldier’s Story” in 1984 and to a Best Actor nomination in 1999’s “The Hurricane”:
“I noticed right away that he had tremendous concentration. He”s very analytical. On ‘Soldier”s Story” I could see how curious he was about the relationship between the actor and the camera. He”d played the part onstage, and as the filming went along, I saw him start to take the performance down, to make it subtler.”
All of this is mixed in with Washington’s own thoughts on his processed, pressed for particulars from Rafferty about what makes him tick. It does the job, certainly, and in advance of the film’s NYFF premiere, sets the stage for a major movie star performance.
I can’t wait.