‘Flight’ Director Zemeckis: “Movies Are Movies Are Movies”

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Robert Zemeckis and Carrie Rickey at the Kimmel Center

How does Robert Zemeckis, director of the new film “Flight,” feel about returning to live-action after a dozen years making motion picture and animation movies? To him, “movies are movies are movies,” and he isn’t planning to commit to one form or another in the future.

Zemeckis participated in an on-stage Q&A last Sunday at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center with longtime Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey, who asked him about his three-decade career, which has included such colossal hits as “Forrest Gump,” “Contact,” the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Cast Away.” He also discussed the new film, which later that night screened as the closing night feature at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

In conversation with Rickey, the director talked about his career, from his childhood in Chicago to his days at USC’s film school, where he was part of a generation that came shortly after the George Lucas class. His first film was the Beatles riff “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” from which he segued first to the Kurt Russell comedy “Used Cars” and then to the MIchael Douglas/Kathleen Turner action film “Romancing the Stone.” The “Back to the Future” films came next, before he won multiple Oscars for 1994’s “Forrest Gump.”

Since the 2000 double-feature of “Cast Away” and “What Lies Beneath,” Zemeckis had exclusively directed a series of animated motion-picture releases, including “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf.” “Flight” represents a throwback for the director, a return to live action, much lower budgets, and working once again with top-line actors, this time Denzel Washington.

The film stars Washington as an airline pilot who pulls off a Captain Sully-like miracle landing, but later lands in hot water when his drug addiction comes to light. Also on hand are John Goodman, James Badge Dale and Kelly Reilly.

Zemeckis also said that he and screenwriter Bob Gale will never allow a remake of “Back to the Future” to proceed for as long as either of them is still alive, but “they’ll probably do it after we’re dead.” But that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in revisiting his past work- Zemeckis said a fantastic script is in existence for a “Roger Rabbit” sequel, which he would love to direct.

During a Q&A period with the audience, more than aspiring filmmaker credited Zemeckis with inspiring them to pursue the form, and one undergraduate student even presented Zemeckis with the gift of the DVD of one of his student films.

 “Flight” opens nationwide Friday; check back on EntertainmentTell that day for a full review. 

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