'Sully' writer Todd Komarnicki is Wheaton grad

by Michael Foust |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) -- Todd Komarnicki, the writer of the new movie Sully, believes society is "starved" for a positive story on the big screen.

Perhaps a film about a passenger plane that lands on a river – and all 155 people on board survive – can fill that bill this weekend. Sully (PG-13) chronicles the incredible tale of Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), the pilot who guided that plane down on the Hudson River in January 2009, defying not only common sense, but the odds.

It became known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."

For Komarnicki -- a graduate of Wheaton College and a Christian working in Hollywood – Sully is the type of story that a divided culture needs.

"It's completely inspirational, and it's a true story with a happy ending," Komarnicki told the Christian Examiner. "Are we desperate for that, or what? In this divisive time, where people are defriending each other over political stances, and where any kind of civility is being taken out to the garden shed and killed, this is a time for unity and for hope and light and goodness."

Komarnicki acknowledges that superhero films also are largely positive, but he says they're not relatable.

"I'm not against superhero movies, but they have one narrative, and it's told again and again and again," he said. "And that narrative is either it is apocalypse now or apocalypse in 10 minutes – and this groups of supra-human people are our only chance. ... The story in Sully is that this is our story, and we can all be heroes, and we can all be first-responders in our own live and in other people's lives."

Komarnicki, who has worked on several other films, including as a producer of the popular comedy Elf, spoke with the Christian Examiner about Sully. Following is a transcript, edited for clarity:

Christian Examiner: What attracted you to this story and to Sully's character?

Komarnicki: First and foremost, what drew me to the story was being a New Yorker, and having good news of a plane crash in New York City. I loved that we could reclaim the narrative from the people that had tried to foist their vision on us on 9/11. That was done to us, but this victory – with Sully and the crew and the passengers and the first responders – this was done by us.

Christian Examiner: What about Sully himself? He seems to be a remarkable man.

Komarnicki: He is. He's a cowboy. In fact, when I first met him, I thought: Clint Eastwood [who directed Sully]. Sully, the man, is so iconic and tall. He's cool under fire. He's a man who is meticulous in his work and preparation, and that's what got the job done that day. He spent a lifetime of measuring twice, cutting once – which he learned from his dad. And it saved everybody's life that day.

CE: The movie really seems to emphasize his devotion to his wife and their relationship. Why such an emphasis on that?

Komarnicki: First, he and his wife are very, very tight. They are a team. But I wanted to heighten the isolation for these characters, because this huge event happened, and then they couldn't get to each other. They were separated because of the investigation and the timing. He was becoming super-famous away from her, and also crumbling inside and unable to get comfort from her. When he started to share his heart, it just scared her. When you have your spouse in life, and that's the person that you need most but you can't get to them – that's awful.

CE: What about his humility? That seems to be a trait that really comes out in the movie.

Komarnicki: You can't fake humility. He is so earnest and so focused on others and not himself. When a woman in the investigation during the film says he's the "X-factor," and he says, "No, we did it. It's everybody" – that's how he sees the world.