Kelly Reilly Talks Flight, in theaters across the country November 2nd
If you've seen any of the posters or trailers for Flight, you know the set up. An alcoholic airline pilot (Denzel Washington) pulls off a daring rescue, only to have his heroic deed called into question after traces of booze and cocain are discovered in his system. What you may not know is that Kelly Reilly also stars in the film, playing a recovering heroine addict that befriends the troubled pilot during his stay at the hospital.
Reilly nearly steals the show as a woman embracing a second chance at life, all while her relationship with Denzel's Whip moves in deeper and unpredictable strides. Her Nicole is a dark character, yet Kelly pulls at bringing the woman's vivacious nature back to light.
Here is our conversation.
The script for Flight sounds more detailed than most screenplays, especially when it came to the characters...
Kelly Reilly: Oh, gosh, yeah. It was pretty fully shaped. John Gatins had been working on this for ten years. That is a lot of time to add some detail and character to your story. There are so many drafts that he went through. By the time we got our hands on it, there were so many levels, and so many dimensions, which you don't always see. Because, as you know, there are so many scripts out there that get written over night by so many different people, and they are not always as fully formed as this one was. We hardly changed a thing by the time I got it. I think John Gatins and Robert Zemeckis had gone through a final draft together before we got a hold of it. What you see on the screen was on the page. Which is pretty impressive.
As an actress, do you enjoy having that much information laid out for you? Or do you enjoy some room to be able to find and create the character on your own?
Kelly Reilly: The thing is, with Nicole...Though the whole script itself was layered, I often found that he had left the characters to be defined by their actions. So it was up to me to interpret that. It wasn't as though he had written a whole three pages describing this character. He hadn't labeled it. It wasn't on the nose. It was very much up to interpretation. There are a lot of clues there, which I love. It becomes a treasure hunt. It was up to me, and to Bob to flesh that out a little bit.
Everyone is making a big deal about this being Robert Zemeckis' first live action film in over a decade. What did that mean to you as a fan of his work?
Kelly Reilly: To be honest with you, the films that are imprinted in my mind are his live actions films. I wasn't that familiar with his motion capture stuff. I've seen them. But they are not the films that defined Robert Zemeckis for me. Forrest Gump, Cast Away. Those are the ones for me. That is the director I am working with. So I didn't give it too much thought. Was I excited to be in a film of his? Absolutely? Was I aware that this was a deeply brave film for him to be making? I'm not afraid of some risks. So it was an exciting prospect for me. There was nothing negative or worrying about it for me. It was all great.
In playing Nicole, what do you feel is the biggest risk you took?
Kelly Reilly: I suppose the biggest risk is wanting to do justice to a character that has been going through something that I haven't. You are dealing with the big subject matter of drug addiction. In dealing with our imaginations as actors, we really do our research. Some is on the page, and the rest is up to your imagination, and heart, and consciousness to try and figure out where you are gong to take it. The risk for me was to try and do her justice. To try and show her with as much light as I could, even though she was struggling with this nightmare.
How do you find the light when you are that immersed inside such a dark character?
Kelly Reilly: Ultimately there is hope within her. You know? She nearly dies. That was a wake up call for her. When she looks at that needle, and she has already been told this is strong. This is power. This is the stuff that will kill you. Don't inject it. She just wants to escape. She just wants to get out of her own body, her own head, her own heart. She is obviously someone that is very alone. She is in a very dark place. It was about going there, and trying to be woken up by that. Only by being woken up by that, did she nearly die. There is life to be fought for, and to live in a healthy way. It is worth it. Ultimately, that is her whole thing as a character. But it's not about tying it up in a nice, happy ending. I do think that people who get out of the clutches of drug addiction, especially heroine...That takes you by the throat and knocks you down. Woman don't often survive once they go down the road of injecting heroine. The fact that she does lift herself out of it and live...Hopefully...We don't know what happens. But she is left in a recovery place. It's my hope, if this story wer real, that she would continue to live a healthy life after this.
Did you think about where she would go after the point that we last see her? Or is it important for you, as an actress, to leave her where we last see her. Because you, like the character, wouldn't know what lies ahead in the future...
Kelly Reilly: I thought about what had happened to her before hand, before what we see. But not what happens to her afterwards. I've only started to think about that now that I am talking to you. Talking about the fact that she made her way out of it. I actually hope that her story turned out to be a good one. There aren't too many good stories that come out of heroine. In one draft, she died. She didn't make it. That is interesting. But that idea changed before there was ever any casting on the film. It was changed during the process of preproduction. I remember John Gatins telling me that she doesn't make it. I was like, "Wow. That is kind of brave storytelling." But ultimately they changed their minds on that one. I understand. I am kind of glad that they did. They wanted to show that it is possible to make it out.
When you are being wrung through some of those heavier scenes, how do you come out of that darkness on set?
Kelly Reilly: It was something I came out of at the end of the experience. That's not to say I stay in character, or anything like that. But you do take home the character. It stays in your head. Its what you are dealing with. When you are immersed in a good novel, everything in your life becomes reflected in that novel, if you are really embedded in it. That's the same with working on a good film. You can't escape it. It's always in the back of your mind somewhere. Which, is, you know...It's great for your work. But it might not be so good for your private life. At the end of it, it was a relief to let that one go.
One last question. The set piece of the film is the emergency flight landing. I felt you could take this twenty minute sequence out of the film, and you would still have a very powerful experience. Do you think that sequence was important to have in the film? And how do you think it might have changed the tone or dynamic of the film had it been talked about, but never seen?
Kelly Reilly: That's interesting. There are a lot of different elements. You could have taken out the Nicole story. You could have taken out the flight sequence. Personally, when I saw that sequence, I was blown away. I think it gives people a perspective, and allows them to experience something that was terrifying. They have gone through this experience in the safety of their cinema seat. They can look at near death, and be at that place of how terrifying that can be. I believe it opens people up. But I don't have an answer...I would have to think about that one.
One word that sums up the movie for you?
Kelly Reilly: Um...I think it's...Brave. It is a brave movie.