Denzel Washington’s character in “Flight” drinks a lot throughout the film, but his portrayal of a highly functioning alcoholic pilot isn’t being welcomed by brewing company Anheuser-Busch or the distributor of Stolichnaya vodka.
Anheuser-Busch said Monday that it has asked Paramount Pictures Corp. to obscure or remove the Budweiser logo from the film, which at one point shows Washington’s character drinking the beer while behind the wheel.
Budweiser is hardly the only alcoholic beverage shown in “Flight,” which earned $25 million in its debut weekend. Washington’s character frequently drinks vodka throughout the film, with several different brands represented. William Grant&Sons, which distributes Stolichnaya in the United States, also said it didn’t license its brand for inclusion in the film and wouldn’t have given permission if asked.
Rob McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser, wrote in a statement that the company wasn’t contacted by Paramount or the production company of director Robert Zemeckis for permission to use the beer in “Flight.”
“We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving,” McCarthy wrote. “We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters.”
A spokesman for Zemeckis referred questions to Paramount, which did not return an email message seeking comment.
Other vodka brands, including Absolut and Smirnoff, are also included in the film. Representatives of those companies did not return messages seeking comment.
Experts say the film is unlikely to run afoul of trademark protections, as courts have ruled that products may be featured in films regardless of whether the companies approve, as long as they have some artistic relevance.