Denzel Washington Once Drew From This ‘Harrowing’ Plane Experience for His Performance in ‘Flight’

In the film Flight, actor Denzel Washington plays a pilot who attempts to land a plane after a mechanical malfunction threatens the lives of its passengers. But for the Training Day star, the film’s setup and the plot weren’t too far away from his own experiences.

There was a point where Denzel Washington thought he faced real danger when he was in his private jet in the middle of a storm. The incident stood out in Washington’s mind, so much so it might have even informed his performance.

Denzel Washington took a pay cut to do ‘Flight’

Denzel Washington smiling.
Denzel Washington | Pepe Fuentes/Getty Images

The Flight script had been floating about Hollywood for a while before it ended up in Washington’s hands. In an interview with Deadline, Washington revealed that he received the script in 2009. But at the same time, he didn’t know “how long it had been kicking around before it came to me.”

In an industry where franchises rule the box office, Washington also shared that Flight wasn’t all that difficult to get off the ground. But one of the issues for the film was cost, which Washington was willing to spend some of his own money to accommodate.

“It was not a struggle to get it made, but the studio wanted to do it for a price, and we ended up with $28 million, and (director) Robert Zemeckis made it look like $100 million, especially the plane sequence,” Washington said. “So he and I threw our money back in the pot, took a tenth of our salaries.”

But still, Washington was passionate about doing the film because he believed in the script.

“Good scripts are hard to find, and this was one that was not a black-and-white kind of story. There was a lot of gray in there,” he revealed.

How Denzel Washington drew from a real-life plane incident for ‘Flight’

Denzel Washington received massive critical acclaim for his performance as Whip Whitaker in Flight. This was evident as he earned an Oscar nomination for the character. But USA Today asserted Washington accessed some real feelings for the film. The actor once revealed he was in a private jet set to land in Burbank, California when a windstorm hit.

“In the first approach we were literally coming down the runway this way — sideways,” Washington said. “I could see the whole runway out of my window. I thought, ‘that’s not a good sign.'”

It wasn’t a good sign for the flight attendant either, who Washington remembered flipped out during the ordeal.

“She started going crazy. I had to calm her down. It was just she and I there. I was churning inside. But it was out of my hands,” he continued.

Eventually, Washington conceded and accepted the situation for what it was.

“After having said my prayers, I really relaxed. I said, ‘They got it. Me screaming ain’t going to help.’”

After the plane landed safely, Washington immediately went to the bathroom. The Oscar-winner admitted the whole situation ‘was pretty harrowing.’

“I think I remembered that (night),” he continued. “But the pilot’s training takes over. My co-pilot is over there screaming and I am trying to keep them relaxed and get things done. And there could be something said that (Whip) was buzzing a little bit. That he might have been a little more relaxed than he should have been.”

Denzel Washington once claimed the key to acting drunk was to act sober

Since Washington was playing an alcoholic in Flight, there were many instances where the actor had to convincingly seem drunk. But in an interview with Metro, the Malcolm X actor insisted this wasn’t as difficult as it sounded.

“You don’t act drunk. People who are drunk think they aren’t, so you actually try to be relaxed and act sober,” Washington explained. “It’s as simple as that. Someone who is drunk tries to convince you they’re fine, there’s just a little wobble there.”

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