Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures is in early discussions with Robert Zemeckis to direct Flight, a live-action feature that has been scripted by John Gatins. Denzel Washington is loosely attached. Zemeckis, who has focused for the last decade on directing and producing performance capture animation films, last directed a live-action film with 2000′s Cast Away. Flight has similar harrowing moments to the unforgettable airplane crash that left Tom Hanks stranded on a deserted island. The fictional tale revolves around a commercial airline pilot named Whip Whitaker. When his plane malfunctions and a crash seems imminent, he saves the day with some heroic flying and manages to land the plane with minimal casualties. He’s instantly hailed as a hero, but as an investigation into the cause of the crash unfolds, it becomes clear that he was flying under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The film is the pilot’s journey as he is encouraged to wear a hero label he thinks he doesn’t deserve, while the pilot’s union and airline try to keep the facts under cover because of the high stakes involved. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are producing.

Gatins, who scripted Real Steel and just signed on to script the sequel to that Hugh Jackman-starrer, had long intended to direct Flight. But Zemeckis has been looking hard at a number of scripts to mark his return to live-action directing, and Paramount became very interested in making a deal with the director. This is a situation that could happen very quickly — there is a nascent plan to begin production by late summer — or crash land because the dealmaking with Zemeckis is very pricey, and Flight is more of a modest character study than some of the director’s past hits like the Back to the Future films or Forrest Gump. It will be nice to see Zemeckis making live-action features again. Beowulf was interesting, but I always found the performance capture footage to be a bit off-putting. Audiences felt the same way in the latest Zemeckis-produced effort, Mars Needs Moms, which bombed for Disney. Stay tuned.

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