'Flight' Director Robert Zemeckis Praises 'Magnificent' Denzel Washington (Video)

The Oscar-winning helmer tells THR about returning to live action for the drama about an airline pilot whose extraordinary heroism masks deep personal demons.

Twelve years has passed since Robert Zemeckis released a live action film, Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks stranded on a desert island.

The Oscar-winning helmer scales back on his signature digital special effects to direct Denzel Washington in Flight, a gritty and suspenseful character drama about a seasoned commercial pilot who heroically makes a crash landing while high on cocaine and still drunk from the night before. His exceptional feat earns him hero status -- he saves nearly every passenger on board -- but an FAA investigation raises disturbing questions.

Washington stars in nearly every scene of the movie as the charismatic, addiction-addled Whip Whitaker, and it's a "magnificent portrayal, a great performance. Very intense, very real. Devoid of any vanity. He did a great job," Zemeckis told THR at the New York Film Festival premiere at Lincoln Center.

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"It talks about (addiction) like it is -- a real problem -- and it touches a lot of lives. But as harrowing as it is, it's a very hopeful film," he observed.

As for why he returned to live action, Zemeckis said he was lured by the script written by John Gatins (Coach Carter), noting that "when you read a great screenplay, you have to make the movie."

The Paramount picture hits theaters Nov. 2, and co-stars John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood and Kelly Reilly.