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Flight - Kelly Reilly interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

KELLY Reilly talks about playing a recovering heroin addict alongside Denzel Washington in Flight and what she enjoyed about even the darker elements of the role.

She also talks about dealing with celebrity, the differences between rehearsing for movies and for the stage and why she never judges her characters or seeks to find something sympathetic about them. She was speaking at a UK press conference.

Q. Robert Zemeckis has said that the scenes he found most difficult to direct were your overdose scenes. Did you know that and how were they to shoot for you? Did you do a lot of research into drug addiction?
Kelly Reilly: Oh really? I didn’t know that! It’s weird because I actually enjoyed doing those scenes because I had to learn how to shoot up. I had no idea so it was almost like… some actors have to learn how to play the guitar for a part, and I had to learn how to do that. And I wanted it to look like she was making coffee, that it was a short-hand because she’d done it a hundred times. It was almost ritualistic… this sort of altar, in front of her mother’s photographs. And I enjoyed going into that world. It might sound dark but it was something that I’d never done before and the way that I knew Robert was shooting it was very sensitive. It was a small part of the movie for me, the heroin part.

Q. Did the film make you scared of flying at all?
Kelly Reilly: No, I’m not scared of flying. But I was terrified in the movie theatre when I saw the sequence.

Q. When you play such morally ambiguous characters how do you pitch them to retain audience sympathy?
Kelly Reilly: As an actor, you don’t have any control over that. You just don’t know, so it’s an exercise of trust and surrender. But that’s why you want to work with good directors because you know they’ll be sensitive to the work you’re doing and respond do it. Like Denzel has said, you just play the character as truthfully as you can – good and bad, light and dark and all those things that we all are. There’s no point playing a saintly character or trying to be loved. I don’t like seeing that in movies when actors try to do that. I’d much rather see somebody play someone a little more complicated.

Q. When you researched into addiction what surprised you about it that you wanted to get into the film?
Kelly Reilly: I discovered something about addiction… I didn’t really know anything. But I think addiction is such a broad subject and so personal that I don’t want to do broad strokes here. But my experience, from my imagination and from this screenplay playing this part, I was able to discover in a short time, a little bit about addiction and what it means to try and escape that and get better. The amount of compassion I feel, from doing this movie, for people who suffer with addiction… they require an incredible amount of inner strength and bravery to admit to themselves that they need help and commit to recovery. I discovered that from this film, so I have so much admiration for people who do that.

Q. How useful was it to have had such a long rehearsal period on this one?
Kelly Reilly: It’s not like rehearsing a play where you get five or six weeks to really walk around and do the scenes and exercise your muscles within the scenes. To sit around a room just talking about it doesn’t feel like rehearsal to me. It’s almost like we’re dancing around the outside of it, to then dive in on the day. So, it’s almost like the prep is just to get the engines going a little bit before you really get into it, so therefore it feels like free-falling to me, rather than a rehearsal. But I’d certainly enjoy hearing about what Bob had to say about things because I had certain questions about how he saw the character and saw certain scenes or moments and so that just informed what I had already thought, or changed my mind.

It provides a great space for you to play when it isn’t all locked down. And on the day, it surprises you because you don’t know what’s going to happen… you don’t know what the other actor is going to bring, or you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to do on that day. It’s not locked down and I enjoy working like that on film. I’d never want to do that on-stage. I want to know exactly what I’m doing but on film it’s a beautiful way to work. I remember some wonderful notes that Bob whispered in my ear that made my hair on my arm stand up and know that I had to go where he told me to.


Q. You nail your character in this film but have you ever felt you’ve been in a film where you’d winged it and didn’t really get a character?
Kelly Reilly: I truly believe that part of my job as an actor is to throw myself off that cliff and into the dark and feeling like you don’t know whether or not it’s going to work. You don’t know. I have no idea. I always finish a day and someone will say: “How was your day? How were your scenes?” And I reply: “I don’t know.” There’s a level of being unaware. It comes back to what Denzel has said about feeling you’ve nailed it… because generally they’re the ones that you haven’t.

Q. You’ve said in the past that you didn’t want to embrace the celebrity lifestyle. Are you concerned that taking on bigger, more high profile roles such as this might bring that kind of awareness to you?
Kelly Reilly: I never said that [laughs]. I don’t like the word celebrity, for a start. If I become a good actress and be in movies where I’m expected to be a good actress, who is recognised, that’s different to being what I consider to be a celebrity. My job is an actor and that’s what I’m passionate about and adore. It’s a privilege to be able to do this job for a living. Did you mean fame?

Q. Do you worry about walking around Waitrose without being recognised?
Kelly Reilly: I think you can do that! I’ve heard that Kate Winslet… the make-up artist who I was working with the other day said to me that Kate Winslet was on the Underground the other day. She puts her hat on and looks down at her feet and doesn’t draw any attention to herself. I believe you can do it… I do! It’s how you choose to live your life and I don’t see that problem encroaching on my life anytime soon.

Q. Did you notice any big differences with being on a major Hollywood film set to being on a smaller British film?
Kelly Reilly: I have to say, I didn’t feel like I was on this huge big set. I felt like I was on a very small film because it was very intimate. All the scenes I had, I wasn’t involved in any of the special effects. My scenes were either me and Denzel, or just me by myself in these very un-glamorous parts of Atlanta mostly! Obviously I was aware of how big the film is. But I didn’t get that impression on-set. I’ve been on other films where there have been 12 producers being all their monitors and I’ve been aware of that… it’s scary. But I didn’t feel that on this movie at all.

Q. Was the catering better?
Kelly Reilly: Are you kidding me? Craft services in America… it’s a completely different world. We get cold tea and coffee and biscuits, right? Well, they have this thing where you can have whatever you want… all day long! That’s definitely the biggest difference.

Q. Do you notice any difference between working with directors in different countries? Or even working on films in different countries, whether it be America, France or the UK?
Kelly Reilly: Well, there are differences within American films and directors when you’re working with a diverse range of filmmakers like Woody Allen or Robert Zemeckis. They’re all different. So, I can’t make comparisons between countries because within the countries they’re so different. All I know is that I like feeling like a gypsy within all of them.

Read our interview with Denzel Washington

Read our interview with Robert Zemeckis