Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2013

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Denzel Washington is an actor who likes to play it cool. A recent trip to Tokyo to introduce his latest film, Flight, came just four days before the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood. At a press conference in Roppongi, reporters naturally asked about his nomination for Best Actor, a question that would cause a less seasoned performer to screw their face into a nervous grin. Washington simply intoned, “Arigato,” into the microphone.

It is not surprising that he should be so unfazed—it was the sixth nomination for the 58-year-old actor, who already has two Oscars at home. In the end, this year’s gold statuette went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of Abe Lincoln, but Washington’s performance has been universally praised by critics. He plays a veteran pilot who saves a doomed airliner by dramatically flipping it upside down mid-air. The pilot becomes a media hero until drugs and alcohol are found in his bloodstream and his deceitful facade begins to crack.

“The crash scene took a lot of time and teamwork to film,” said director Robert Zemeckis in Tokyo. “We actually had 30 extras hanging upside down.” High adrenaline emergency landings aside, the film is essentially a study of addiction and redemption. “The script was wonderful,” Washington says. “I didn’t adlib a word.”

  • Flight is currently screening in theaters citywide
  • Read Don Morton’s review here