MSN Movies Blog

Interview: Kelly Reilly of 'Flight'

On the gravity of the situation and lucky casting

By James Rocchi Nov 1, 2012 11:49AM

Kelly Reilly's face in "Flight" may look familiar to you--she plays Nicole, a drug-shooting basket case whom Denzel Washington's doped-up pilot finds and falls for. It's a love story made of equal parts compassion and codependency. And it's a far cry from her best-known work as Dr. Watson's love in the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise--but the change serves Reilly well. We spoke with the actress in L.A. about nervous flying, shooting styles and shoplifting accents. ...

MSN Movies: Your character in this ... American audiences have seen you in lace sleeves and bonnet as Dr. Watson's wife in the "Sherlock Holmes" films. This is very different. You've got tattoos, you've got crimson hair, you've got a variety of Southern, scandalous, warm-weather ensembles. Was it nice to do something so new and different?


Kelly Reilly: I like your summary of the character. (Laughs) Yes, it was. As an actor you always want to keep it different, change it up, and you know just to keep yourself inspired and work with interesting characters. The character that you spoke of ... that couldn't be more different from Nicole.


Bing: Kelly Reilly l Robert Zemeckis

Even your speaking voice as Nicole is kind of this chain smoker's purrr with the accent of the South to it. How long did it take to nail that down? Are you somebody who picks those things up relatively quickly?


Reilly: Well, not every accent. I really suck at a lot of them, but that one I really had a sort of a feeling towards, and then I went and worked with the dialect coach and got the sounds perfectly correct. And then I worked with my costume assistant on the movie, who's from Alabama, and I just loved everything about her voice, and I stole it.


And you would just have her pour words into your ear before the take?


Reilly: Talk to me before a take. Sometimes I would get her to say that word -- "Just say that word to me" -- and I would get her to listen to me just to make sure because I needed authentic, needed somebody who absolutely was from there to make it real. 

In this film you're working with Robert Zemeckis who's won Oscars and has had box office success. He shot this film in sequence -- with scenes shot in order, which is almost unprecedented. Do you find that for you playing a character who has a health crisis with drugs, tries to get out of it, and goes through a process of rehab one day at a time -- with such a linear character journey, do you find that shooting in a linear fashion instead of popping around helped you stay in that performance groove?


Reilly: Absolutely. It's such a rarity. That never happens. You always shoot the end of the movie, then the beginning, and you know it always works that way. So to be able to take your journey and not have to go back or forward to those different headspaces, and it was really a great advantage to us without a doubt.


"I can pretend to be a little bit less strung out and shaky than I was yesterday." Certainly not quite that mechanical ...


Reilly: (Laughs) No, not like that.


When you look at this cast, you're looking around and then all of a sudden it's, "Oh, I'm in scenes with Denzel Washington. I'm going to be in the presence of Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, all of these amazing actors and actresses." Did you feel incredibly fortunate as a cast being together and just knowing this is going to be something special?


Reilly: This is the most ... it was the luckiest break I've ever had. This has been the most incredibly smart and talented cast I've ever had to work with on film and I feel that this is such a privilege to be part of this cast. When I was asked to play the part after auditioning for it, it was incredibly exciting to be joining them.


We're all nervous fliers a little bit to get up there, at cruising altitude, and you're clearly in violation of the laws of the universe and God as we know them: You shouldn't be in the sky. Does this film, where the plane crash sequence is shot by a master of kinetic movement and tension, has the film made you a more nervous flier?


Reilly: You know what? Thankfully it hasn't, but he did a really good job at trying to change that. How good is that sequence? I mean I had nothing to do with that part of the film so I didn’t even know how they were shooting it or what was going on, so I actually saw that sequence in the movie basically for the first time. It was watching it like that. (Holds hands in front of her face.)


That sequence is so frightening that after I wanted someone from an airline to apologize to me and give me a free drink.


Reilly: (Laughs)


For more on "Flight," read MSN Film Critic Glenn Kenny's review here; watch our video interview with the cast below:


 ("Flight" opens Friday; for more on movies, check the MSN Movies Facebook page and the MSN Movies Twitter feed.) 

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