Robert Zemeckis finally looks to take ‘Flight’


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It’s been more than a decade since Robert Zemeckis has made a live-action film. But fans who’ve been hoping for the director to move away from his recent performance-capture period could soon get their wish.

According to a source familiar with the project, Zemeckis’ next movie will be the live-action airplane drama ‘Flight,’ about a pilot who rescues his passengers from a dangerous situation but who turns out not to be as heroic as he appears -- he’s an addict whose negligence was partly responsible for the danger in the first place.


News initially surfaced about ‘Flight’ about six weeks ago. But the project’s fate had been thrown into uncertainly as both studio Paramount and the director decided if they wanted to move forward with it.

Now, however, the drama is on track and aims to shoot in the fall, said the source, who asked not to be identified because the project was still being developed. The movie has Denzel Washington attached as the pilot, but a deal and scheduling issues must still be worked out. [Update Saturday, 12:32 pm: A second source says that the movie will indeed shoot in the fall and that Washington’s deal will close shortly.]

A Paramount spokeswoman and the film’s producer each declined to comment.

The project looks to take precedence over several other Zemeckis films, including a time-travel movie called ‘Replay’ and a ‘Roger Rabbit’-esque hybrid called ‘The Animated American.’ Both pictures would take Zemeckis back to the future, one more literally than the other.

Zemeckis’ filmmaking prospects have been the subject of much speculation in movie circles, and it’s understandable why. After a string of generation-defining hits early in his career -- ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ -- he’s been a lot less influential of late as he’s moved toward performance-capture pictures and away from live-action films.

The filmmaker produced the hybrid live-animated ‘Mars Needs Moms,’ which bombed earlier this year. His last directing effort was the middlingly received ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 2009, which followed the similarly underperforming ‘Beowulf’ in 2007. Disney spiked his update of the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ several months ago after ‘Mars’ tanked. All of his recent projects fit with his well-documented preoccupation with technology and special effects.

‘Flight’ fits with a different Zemeckis preoccupation: The filmmaker is a registered pilot.

The director hasn’t done a purely live-action film since the Tom Hanks desert-island tale ‘Cast Away.’ That movie, which grossed a whopping $424 million around the world, capped a period in which he also helmed well-received movies with adventure and science-fiction elements, including ‘Romancing the Stone’ and ‘Contact.’ Now he’s heading back in that direction.


--Steven Zeitchik