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Writing Sully: A Faith Conversation with Todd Komarnicki

Sully movie interview
Movie Info
 

RATING:

PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language

GENRES:

Biography, Drama

RELEASE:

September 9, 2016

STARRING:

Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn

DIRECTOR:

Clint Eastwood

DISTRIBUTOR:

Warner Bros.

More on this movie at IMDb.com

Siding up to the counter at Walker's Pub, screenwriter Todd Komarnicki starts his workday. A half block from his apartment, the eatery is his home office (one with direct access to the best burgers in NYC, according to Komarnicki). It's here that he'll spend countless hours staring at his laptop as the words begin to flow, words that will make up the script for director Clint Eastwood's highly anticipated movie, Sully.

Based on the extraordinary events of January 15, 2009, Sully focuses on the story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) and the aftermath of his controlled ditching of US Airways Flight #1549 into the Hudson River.

It's a story that inspired a city, the nation, and the world. And Komarnicki held that story in his hands. Typing away, the 23-year New Yorker relived the heroics and drama of January 15th, digging deeper than what most of us remember from the newsreels that day. For Komarnicki, he remembers watching the footage of a plane sinking into the Hudson alongside his desperately ill mother who was in hospice.

"It struck us very intensely because it's one of the last positive memories of my mom when she was really coherent and aware of what was going on before she got too ill," says Komarnicki. "And the fact that it occurred was such a miracle and such good news in an endless cycle of bad news…. To have that story occur really lifted our spirits at our house where everyone was battling the grief of watching my mom suffer. I know my mom was deeply moved by it."

The Miracle on the Hudson news rippled across New York. It was the kind of news that the City felt – deeply. It was a moment, Komarnicki remarks, as a time when New Yorkers, once again, came together.

"As a New Yorker living here 23 years, it's a story that's very close to our hearts. One of the things that never gets mentioned is the fact that the last time we had something that devastating happen around a plane was 9/11. Yet, on the day that Sully landed the plane in the Hudson, nobody thought, ‘Is there terrorism involved? Is it unsafe to rescue these passengers?' Everyone just went directly to go serve, and that is a big component about why everyone survived the frigid waters. It's stunning what they were able to achieve and to do it with such fearlessness. It's pure New Yorkers," says Komarnicki.

But the story of Sully and the miracle that day reaches beyond the Big Apple. It lifted a nation desperately in need of some good news, a hero. And that lends itself to the message Komarnicki sees in Sully.

"Everyone has a hero inside of them waiting to be unleashed," he says. "What happened for Sully on that day, I mean, he was the right man and the right job at the right time. He was so prepared. The machine didn't land the plane, a man did. And I certainly believe that there are answered prayers and that there's deep grace involved in this whole scenario, but God works through people and Sully was an extraordinary pilot and an extraordinary human being. I have so much respect for him."

"What the movie says to me is that not only would Sully focus his life building towards this moment of catastrophe and yet heroism, but all the people that came and rescued the passengers, how the flight crew behaved, the passengers themselves. Everybody brought their full, best self to the event; and that's available to us every day."

"If we look around, we're always going to see someone that's in some sort of emergency. It could be our own child. It could be a stranger in the street, but we're called to live an actively open-eyed and openhearted life. As Christians, that's certainly the way that we're supposed to be living."

"This movie just tells everyone that if you keep your eyes open, you will find people in emergency need that you can help, that you can make a difference for. Sometimes there's not a siren involved or it doesn't have bells ringing to tell you it's an emergency, but there's something deeper afoot and we can be God's hands and heart here on the earth to help people every single day."

Sully's a welcomed departure for Komarnicki, who's grateful that a story like this is getting big screen time and can be an alternative for moviegoers tired of dark superhero movies.

"Here's a story where the good guys win. It's like an old fashioned western, and the best gunslinger in town is the guy with the most skills and the most integrity, and that's Sully. And Sully wins, and because of that, everybody wins."

Having produced the now Christmas classic, Elf, and written the inspired script for Sully, Komarnicki's cup runneth over.

"If I can have those two movies on my resume at the end of the day, I'd just say, ‘Thank you, Lord. I humbly bow and accept that I got to be part of these miraculous stories.' I'm just super blessed. I would say the feeling that I feel more now than any point in my career, and after being part of this remarkable story is I just feel totally humbled."

The extraordinarily human, moving, and humbling story of Sully and Flight #1549 opens in theaters this Friday (September 9). The Clint Eastwood film stars Tom Hanks as Sully, Laura Linney, and Aaron Eckhart. It's rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language.

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