John Goodman's good/bad guy in 'Flight'

John Goodman as Harling Mays in "Flight." John Goodman as Harling Mays in "Flight." Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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When was the last time Hollywood gave us a drug dealer as a hero, as comic relief in a drama? It's not something that happens often.

But here is Harling Mays, lifelong pal of substance-abusing pilot "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington), played by John Goodman in "Flight."

"I don't know if I'm glamorizing coke dealers, or even if Harling is a glamorous or cool character," says screenwriter John Gatins. "Harling is exactly who he seems to be." And who he seems to be, Gatins says, is Whip Whitaker's one true-blue friend.

"I've seen the movie with a lot of audiences now, and the scene pops up where Harling is strolling down that hallway with a knapsack full of cocaine, riding to the rescue, people are cheering." Gatins says. "It's the strangest thing. I want to ask people, 'Why are you cheering?'

"We all have that guy in our life we're conflicted over," says Gatins, a recovering alcoholic who combined "my two biggest fears -- drinking myself to death and dying in a plane crash" for "Flight."

"You kind of love the guy, but you don't like what he brings into your life."

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