Beyond the headline
> Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood attempts to tell the true story of the Miracle on the Hudson in his latest drama, Sully
O NJan 15, 2009, Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 people onboard.
However, even as Sully was being praised by the public and the media, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and career.
His story is retold in the film, Sully, directed by Academy Award-winning director and producer Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks as the pilot.
The movie also stars Aaron Eckhart as Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles, and Oscar nominee Laura Linney as Sully’s wife Lorrie.
The film is based on a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, which is adapted from Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow’s book, Highest Duty.
In an interview transcript provided by Warner Bros, Eastwood talks about what attracted him to this movie.
What is about the story of Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger that’s so inspiring to people? “What impressed me when I first read the screenplay was that Sully was a real American hero, somebody who did the right thing at the right time and adjusted to the elements that he had to face.
“And the fact that some people tried to say otherwise shows that he had to overcome a lot of things he maybe hadn’t anticipated.”
Was there anything about Hanks’ performance that surprised you as a director? “I’d watched his career over many years, and seen him do some really fine performances.
“[Hanks] is terrific. He’s a director’s dream, as far as working with him goes, because he’s always there on time; he’s always efficient; and he knows his stuff.
“Yes, I’ve worked with a lot of actors and a lot of efficient people, but never anyone more efficient than he is. He was great. He knows [to] come well prepared and knows what he’s doing. I thought he was splendid.”
How did you create the interaction between the two experienced pilots in a way that makes us believe what they’re going through? “It was a well-written script. The writer had been very diligent in his research. We had Sully [himself] there. He had written a book about it, and he’s very detailminded. So, the detail was there – all we had to do was [to] make it believable.
“Now, that is very difficult to do. It’s impossible to go get another plane ... You might do it quite a few times and still not be as successful.
“So, it took a combination of various effects to get it all to work together, and to bring those 208 seconds to life with all the tension and power of the real thing.”
What did you see as your greatest challenges? “After reading the script, I was trying to think, what was the worst thing that could have happened?
“And I said: ‘We’ll do that as a dream sequence’ – just to show people what a real tragedy it could have been, and, by the same token, to show how much of this went through Sully’s mind. So, I added that scene, and it gave me a good start for the picture.
“Then you go through the problems Sully had explaining what happened and what his thought process was all the way through the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings.
“The NTSB was doing its job, which is asking all the questions to try to find out exactly why they lost [the] airplane. You just have to go through that much like they did in real life, and the actors all understood that.”
Eastwood (third from left) at the premiere of Sully (top), together with (from far left) Eckhardt, Sullenberger, and Hanks.