An Oscar-winner for Forrest Gump and director of some of our favorite movies, it’s hard to imagine that Robert Zemeckis hasn’t made a live-action film in over a decade. Then, the year was 2000, and the film was Cast Away. Though the director of Back to the Future, Contact, and Used Cars has found some of his greatest commercial success in the last twelve years, all the films have used motion capture. Despite any financial success, however, The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol never quite satisfied the older Zemeckis fans who yearned for him to get out of the computer and back into the real world.

He’s finally doing that with Flight, an intimate, challenging character study about a pilot (Denzel Washington) who lands a crashing plane while drunk. More than a return to live-action, it’s a return to maturity for Zemeckis, as it’s his first R-rated movie in some time, complete with foul language, nudity, and drug use. It opens November 9.

Speaking at this weekend’s press junket for Flight, Zemeckis said while fans might see his career as having taken a detour, he doesn’t see it that way. Read his quote and discuss after the jump.

During the press conference, Zemeckis was asked if he felt Flight was his big return to live action filmmaking:

I never felt that I went away. Movies are movies. Some bend light through a lens, some create moving images virtually. At the end of the day movies are movies.

Later he was asked if Flight was a movie he could have made earlier in this career and his answer continued his lofty, romantic views of filmmaking as a whole:

I’ve always said that movies are like love affairs. Two people come together and if they’re at the right place and the right time, it clicks. And that’s how I always felt I connected with screenplays. It’s the romantic in me.

Of course he’s right that “movies are movies.” Making a $100 million movie is the same as making a $100 movie in that you’re using the best tools available to tell a story. However, it’s probably too early for Zemeckis to truly answer these questions. He has yet to (publicly) settle on his next project, which could feasibly be motion capture or live action. If he latter occurs, maybe in a few years he can look back at The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol and reflect on what they meant to him. Or maybe they’ll just be the start of a life-long career using that medium and Flight was the detour.

Do you think Zemeckis made a mistake making motion capture movies? Did his work make it possible for films like Avatar?

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