Flight (2012) - Denzel Washington
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) © 2012 Paramount Pictures

In Denzel Washington’s new thriller Flight, he portrays Captain ‘Whip’ Whitaker, a seasoned airline pilot who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly every soul on board. He’s hailed as a hero, but as the investigation continues more questions than answers arise about what really happened that day.

Denzel Washington spoke of his new movie at the press day for the film.

What was it about Flight that intrigued you?

Flight (2012) - Denzel Washington and Kelly Reilly
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) and Nicole (Kelly Reilly) © 2012 Paramount Pictures

When I read the material in the script, I just said, ‘Wow, this is good.’

The last two scripts my late agent, Ed Limato, gave me were Safe House and Flight. That was part of it too, just the promise I made to him.

It’s a very unique movie.

Yeah, it’s very rare. If it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage.

I read a ton of scripts, and [with this one] you felt like you read it in 14 minutes, because you’re turning the page so fast you can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. I had to be a part of it. The guts, the pain, the tears were all on the page, like a Eugene O’Neill play.

You had to go places in this film that I’m certain were uncomfortable for you. What helped you get through those really tough places in this film?

Flight (2012) - Denzel Washington
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) © 2012 Paramount Pictures

Tough spots for me are pictures I don’t want to be on. If you are on a movie and it’s the third day, and you are going, ‘How many days have we been shooting? Three? How many more have we have to go? A hundred and seventeen.’ That’s a tough movie for me.

This was an adventure. Getting the chance to fly around in a flight simulator and hanging upside down in the plane [was great].

Maybe a painful scene, I don’t know it was painful, was the scene when I go to my ex-wife’s house and I get into this wrestling match with my son. I’ve gotten into wrestling matches with my son, not quite the same circumstance, but you’re raw, it’s raw, so that sticks out.

In the hospital scene when the tears were rolling down your face, what state of mind were you in to do that scene?

Flight (2012) - Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle and Denzel Washington
Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) and Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) © 2012 Paramount Pictures

These questions are kind of hard for me because I don’t analyze what I’m doing. I’m not sitting outside of myself watching myself. Whip was injured. He was disoriented. He was getting bits and pieces of what had happened to him.

I almost feel like the state of mind doesn’t set in until everybody’s gone, and the last person walks out. And that was the beginning of it for me. Everything else was just taking in information. What happened? Who’s gone? Who’s fault? Did we get hit by another plane? Things like that.

What do you want the audience to take away from this movie?

Flight (2012) - Bruce Greenwood and Denzel Washington
Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) © 2012 Paramount Pictures

When people say, ‘What do you want people to get from this movie?’ I say, ‘It depends upon what they bring to it.’ So I don’t try to decide what people should get from it or why. I don’t do a part for those kinds of reasons.

The 20th anniversary of Malcolm X is next month. Do you have any fond memories of playing him?

Wow. It’s 20 years? The first time landing in Egypt was on Malcolm X, and I think it was in ’91, ’92. And it was just a powerful feeling, being able to move around with the people. I never felt threatened or anything like that.

Gosh, that was 20 years ago? I was 12 when I made that movie!

Want to hear the flying dream Denzel has had for years? Click below.

[jwplayer config=”Audio” mediaid=”31294″]


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.