Many companies would kill for soaring product-placement shots in a Hollywood blockbuster.
But when it comes to Flight, two liquor brands want theirs grounded.
Budweiser and Stolichnaya have requested the film's producers to remove glaring shots of their products in the critically acclaimed film, which tracks the wrenching personal odyssey of a heroic but alcoholic pilot, played by Denzel Washington, who saves countless lives during a plane crash.
Both brands claim that neither had been contacted prior to filming, and they object to how their products are depicted in the Robert Zemeckis–directed movie, which shows Washington's character in a boozy downward spiral as he chugs down Budweiser while driving and passes out during vodka-fueled benders.
"We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving," Budweiser Vice President Robert McCarthy tells E! News, saying it was completely unaware its signature brew would be included in the film. "It is disappointing that Image Movers, the production company, and Paramount chose to use one of our brands in this manner."
A rep for Stoli was equally miffed, saying that the liquor company would never have agreed to being included in the film, given its subject matter.
"As the importer of Stoli to the United States, we were dismayed by the choice of Paramount to include Stoli in the recent film Flight," a spokesman for the vodka brand's parent company, William Grant & Sons, said. "Considering the subject matter of the film Flight, it is certainly not a project in which we would have willingly participated. The inclusion directly contradicts...our commitment to responsible marketing. Accordingly, we ask Paramount to remove any reference to the Stolichnaya brand, including the brand logo, from this film and all subsequent adaptations."
But both companies may not have much of a fighting chance: Film productions don't need to seek permission to use brand names in films, and filmmakers are covered by a "fair use" provision that allows them to crib recognizable signage and images for certain products without having to jump through legal hoops.
Whatever their gripes may be, Budweiser and Stolichnaya are certainly getting loads of eyeballs on their products: Flight has clearly taken flight at the box office, pulling in an robust $25 million on opening weekend last week. The film has also drummed up serious awards buzz for Washington's raw and commanding performance.
No such tailspin there, that's for sure.