Cast & Crew
John C. Reilly
In 1914 Houston, nine-year-old Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. receives a careful bath from his mother, who cautions him about the typhus plague and the resultant quarantine that has beset the city and warns him that he is not safe. Thirteen years later, Howard, now an orphan and multi-millionaire after inheriting the Houston-based Hughes Tool Company, is in Hollywood on the outdoor set of Hell's Angels , in the midst of fulfilling his boyhood dream of directing a movie. Having spent his own money to produce the World War I aviation epic, the youthful, exuberant Howard delights in the enormous collection of airplanes needed for the battle sequences, yet takes a moment from filming to hire former accountant Noah Dietrich to manage Toolco and Hughes's finances. Mocked across Hollywood for the film's spiraling costs and his inexperience, Howard nevertheless determinedly oversees every detail of the film's sprawling production, forcing it to drag on for two years, despite Dietrich's mounting alarm. Frustrated by the footage of the aerial battle, Howard waits months for the appropriate weather to re-shoot the sequence and orders Dietrich to incorporate a division of Toolco in California under the name Hughes Aircraft Company in order to forestall financial questions by the company's Houston board. While working on the film, Howard also starts to develop a racing plane with pilot and engineer Glenn "Odie" Odekirk. After Hell's Angels finally wraps production, Howard shocks Dietrich by declaring that because sound has come to motion pictures, his silent film is already outdated and he intends to re-shoot the entire picture with sound. Well into the third year of work on the film, which has become notorious for its lengthy production, Dietrich visits Howard in his Romaine Street office in Hollywood to tell him that the project has nearly bankrupted Toolco. Confident of success, Howard orders Dietrich to mortgage the company. Months later, Hell's Angels has a stupendous premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and a nervous Howard, escorting the film's female star, Jean Harlow, is showered with wild adulation by fans and the press. Five years later, after developing a reputation as an obstinate film producer and romancer of beautiful movie stars, Howard lands a plane on the beach set of a picture being made by top star Katharine Hepburn to ask her to play a round of golf with him. Captivated by each other's similar preoccupation with success and fame, Howard and Kate have a whirlwind courtship and after some months, Kate moves into Howard's expansive home. Meanwhile, as he continues to develop the H-1 racing plane with Odie, Howard is approached by TWA Airlines president Jack Frye to design and build a new passenger plane. When Howard enthusiastically suggests building a craft that could reach above the weather's turbulence to the remarkable height of 20,000 feet, Frye hesitates, concerned with whether the company's board would approve. Undaunted, Howard decides to buy TWA. Soon after, at a small airfield near Santa Ana, Howard and Odie conduct a formal speed trial of the sleek, powerful H-1 racer, which Howard insists on piloting. In three passes over the field, Howard breaks the world speed record when the H-1 reaches 352 miles an hour, but is forced to crash-land in a beet field when the plane runs out of fuel. Returning home, Howard shares his triumph with Kate, who cautions him of the personal disruptions that can result from great fame. Howard assures Kate he can handle the pressures, but confides that he has occasional crazy ideas that make him fear he may someday lose his mind. Over the next several months, Howard starts production and direction of a Western film while continuing to set aviation records, including making the fastest flight around the world. Howard becomes increasingly aware of his long-hidden phobia of germs and compulsive, ritualized cleaning habits, but manages to conceal them from everyone. On a brief vacation, Kate takes Howard to her family home in Connecticut, where he is put off by the Hepburns' eccentricities. As Europe slides into the Second World War and American convoys are attacked, Howard turns to Odie to help develop an enormous boat-like transport plane to be named the Hercules which Howard plans to sell to the Army Air Corps. When Howard's Western, The Outlaw , which features the busty figure of its star, Jane Russell, runs into trouble with the Motion Picture Association censor board, Howard contests their refusal to approve the film. Despite the daily demands of managing TWA, developing the all-wood Hercules and the XF-11 twin engine reconnaissance plane and battling to get his film released, Howard nevertheless constantly appears in tabloid newspapers escorting numerous beautiful stars, infuriating Kate. Jack introduces Howard to Robert Gross, the president of Lockheed Aircraft, who shows him a model of their newest plane, the Constellation , which has a flying range of three thousand miles. Realizing that with the Constellation , TWA could compete with Juan Trippe's Pan American airlines in making international flights, Howard enthusiastically orders forty planes, promising to pay for them privately. Howard is stunned when soon thereafter, Kate reveals that she has met someone and plans to move out. The couple argues and after Kate leaves, a distraught Howard burns all his expensive clothing and orders Dietrich to buy him cheap suits. Over the next several months, while challenging Pan Am's supremacy and Trippe's close contacts with the Civil Aeronautics Board, Howard continues dating starlets, including teenaged ingénue Faith Domergue, yet arranges to squelch the publication of intimate pictures of Kate with her co-star and married love interest, Spencer Tracy. As business pressures mount, Howard's compulsions become more overt despite his struggles to subdue them. Howard then turns his attentions to beautiful movie star Ava Gardner, who consistently refuses his gifts of expensive jewelry and marriage proposals. Meanwhile, Trippe arranges with Maine's Republican senator Ralph Owen Brewster to introduce the Community Airline Bill (C.A.B.), which seeks to limit competition in international commercial flights, and recommends that the senator chair the important Committee Investigating National Defense. Howard meets with Jack and Odie at the enormous hangar, housing the half-built Hercules to discuss Brewster's bill, but rejects Jack's advice to keep TWA's routes domestic and orders him to court senators who might oppose the bill. Odie presses Howard on numerous decisions necessary for the Hercules and as the demands overwhelm Howard, he falls into a sudden paroxysm of repeating the same phrase over and over until, horrified, he flees the hangar to be alone. Although terrified by this loss of control, Howard overcomes his nerves and some months later calmly takes the XF-11 on its inaugural flight. Howard pilots the elegant, powerful plane successfully for more than an hour but as he turns back to the landing field, the craft abruptly pulls to the right and rapidly loses altitude, crashing violently into a residential section of Beverly Hills. Although severely injured, Howard struggles to escape the burning cockpit and is pulled from the wreckage by a man from the neighborhood. Suffering from near catastrophic injuries, Howard nevertheless survives and is hospitalized for several weeks during which Odie informs him that as the war has ended, the government has canceled the contract for the Hercules . Although disappointed, Howard vows to complete the plane using his own money. After Howard's release from the hospital, he meets with Dietrich to survey his fleet of TWA Constellations , which have been grounded pending the investigation of a crash. Dietrich warns that continued construction of the Hercules and the grounded fleet are bleeding Hughes Aircraft and Toolco dry, but Howard orders him to take a loan out against all the TWA equipment. Still weak, Howard visits Ava, who is outraged to discover that he has planted a microphone in her bedroom. When Howard admits that her whole house is bugged, Ava flies into a rage and hits him with an ashtray. That afternoon, a distressed Howard contacts Dietrich upon discovering FBI agents and senate investigators in his home removing boxes of documents. A few weeks later, Howard meets Brewster at his hotel room in Washington D.C., where the senator offers to suspend the public hearings on Hughes Aircraft if Howard will agree to support the C.A.B. legislation. Declaring that the country can support two international carriers, Howard refuses and departs, but back in Hollywood at the Romaine office's private screening room, Howard suffers a complete nervous collapse, giving way to all of his compulsive behaviors and phobias. Unwashed, bearded and with long hair, Howard continues in a mental quagmire for weeks until Kate unexpectedly arrives and demands to see him. Although momentarily cured of his compulsive behavior, Howard refuses to let her in. Through the door, Kate thanks Howard for purchasing the pictures of her and Tracy and pleads with him to let her help him. Although touched by her offer, Howard remains too mortified by his condition and turns her down. Over the next several weeks, Howard's mental condition deteriorates further and he remains in the screening room alone, naked and dirty, watching his movies, eating candy bars and milk and filling the empty bottles with urine. One day, Trippe arrives at the Hughes offices for a prearranged meeting. Howard refuses to see him, forcing Trippe to sit in a chair just outside the screening room door where he challenges Howard to give up TWA. When Howard angrily refuses, Trippe points out that none of the planes Howard planned to develop for the army during the war came to fruition. Howard insists that the XF-11 flew very well and bristles when Trippe mocks the untested behemoth Hercules , calling it by the disparaging press nickname the "Spruce Goose." Trippe insists that Howard will default on his loan and that Pan Am will eventually take over TWA, then reminds Howard that he will be forced to appear at Brewster's hearings, which will be filled with press and onlookers. Trippe departs and advises Dietrich that Howard will be subpoenaed in three days. A few nights later, Howard forces himself out of the screening room and returns home, disheveled and fragile. He is surprised when Ava visits and, masking her shock at Howard's appearance, casually offers to help prepare him for the hearings. With Ava's reassuring assistance, Howard bathes and shaves, then struggles to collect himself mentally. With growing confidence, Howard attends the packed senate hearings led by Brewster, and over three days of grueling testimony faces down the senator's allegations that Hughes Aircraft bilked the government for uncompleted aircraft. Howard defends himself well, pointing out Brewster's close affiliation with Trippe and how the C.A.B. legislation was written by Pan Am executives. Under further questioning, Howard acknowledges that Hughes Aircraft did not fulfill their contract but notes that although several other airplane manufacturers also never delivered materiels to the army, only his company is under investigation. When Brewster protests, Howard reveals the offer Brewster made him in Washington and admits that, in addition to government funds, he has poured much of his own money into developing planes. Staunchly insisting that the Hercules will fly, Howard exits the hearings, which are later suspended. A few months later in Long Beach Harbor, the massive Hercules is set on water as Odie and several close associates join Howard to test the plane in front of the press. Howard's one-mile flight in the giant plane is a stunning success and after speaking with the press and a supportive Ava, Howard joins Odie and Dietrich to discuss launching a line of jet planes. In the midst of the cheery celebration, Howard notices three gloved men watching him with ominous expressions, unaware that they exist only in his imagination. Lapsing abruptly into his disconnected, repetitive speech pattern, Howard is whisked into a bathroom by a panicked Odie and Dietrich. Alone and unable to contain this latest breakdown, Howard bleakly realizes that complete mental disintegration is his unavoidable future.
John C. Reilly
J. C. Mackenzie
Vincent J. Giordano
Jordan St. James
Lisa Bronwyn Moore
Dennis St. John
Vladimir Kuznetsou Smith
Timothy D. Ackers
H. Leah Amir
Grant Madden Anderson
Audrey L. Anzures
Johann Sebastian Bach
Vincent Gauvin Badeau
Denise T. Ballantyne
Michel "mikey" Bertrand
Jorge Bobadilla Jr.
Karen M. Boyle-anastasio
Danielle C. Carroll
Joe Eddie Casares
Yvon "chico" Charbonneau
Gary A. Clark
Lisa Joelle Curtis
Yan Frederick D'amour
James D. Putt
Robert Davis Oh
Heather I. Denton
Katia Kim Depatie
Carolyn L. Elias
Margaret E. Elliott
Charles Evans Jr.
Richard A. F. Ewan
N. Edward Fincher
David E. Franks
Best Costume Design
Best Costume Design
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
The biggest technological difference between this telling of the story of Hughes and all the others comes with big budget special effects that Scorsese used to film the aerial scenes, including one of the great moments of spectacle in the cinema, the scene depicting Howard Hughes' infamous test flight crash on July 7, 1946. In that scene, as in real life, Hughes takes a failing plane down in Beverly Hills, California, colliding with three homes along the way and nearly losing his life.
The biggest difference in character between this telling of Hughes and all the others is the noticeable speech repetitions that Hughes suffers where he finds himself repeating a simple word or phrase over and over. It's not something other biographies have ever delved into and though it is a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder, it is not known for sure if Hughes ever suffered from it. Nor does it matter. It's a way that director Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have of externalizing the manifestations of Hughes' mind and the constant battle Hughes wages to control it.
More than once in the movie, Hughes is seen holding his hand over his mouth, trying to physically repress what his brain is trying to get out. Hughes had a singular focus when he went to work on something, whether it be a movie or a brand new, experimental plane, and that verbal tic, that repetition, is his brain driving home a singular issue for his mind to grab hold of but it's supposed to stay inside where no one can hear or see it. When it gets out, his hand clenching his mouth is the only defense he has. In many ways, it's the most heartbreaking aspect of the movie: Hughes is fully aware of how this tic makes him appear and he struggles to control it.
But the movie isn't just about Howard Hughes' obsessive compulsive disorder and that, too, is what makes this particular biopic a success. Hughes was a man of such achievement that a biopic of him simply working in film and aviation would have been enough to make a fascinating movie and, indeed, most of the film is concerned with Howard Hughes taking on the film world and, much to the chagrin of many people in the industry at the time, not failing. His early work as a director and producer with Hell's Angels is still pretty amazing, without even considering that he was only 25 when he made it. And the scene of Hughes, during production of The Outlaw, using all his guile to convince Hollywood censors that Jane Russell's cleavage was well within the allowable range set by them is one of the most entertaining scenes in the movie.
Playing Howard Hughes is Martin Scorsese's second most prolific acting partner, Leonardo DiCaprio. Having worked with Robert De Niro eight times, Scorsese began working with DiCaprio in 2000 with his much delayed Gangs of New York and since has used him as his go-to actor more than anyone else, five times to date. DiCaprio does a fine job as Hughes, portraying his OCD in a way that relays to the audience that he is not only aware of his psychological challenges but trapped by them. He doesn't just show Howard scrubbing his hands endlessly in an effort to get all the germs off, or repeating a key phrase again and again, he shows a man terrified of his own inner-workings, fully aware of what's going on and unable to stop it.
The Aviator has some fine supporting performances as well. Despite the uphill battle of portraying an actress whose every mannerism and vocal inflection is known to the classic film loving community, Cate Blanchett succeeds in producing a unique version of Katharine Hepburn for the film. It's not meant to be an impersonation, and thank goodness for that, it's meant to be a character from real life that has a long relationship with Hughes and happens to be a famous actress. If Blanchett didn't spend one minute studying the mannerisms of Hepburn, no one could blame her. Better to play the character before you than one you've learned to imitate from watching old movies.
Another excellent supporting performance comes from Alan Alda, as Senator Ralph Owen Brewster, the Senator investigating Hughes' wartime aviation contracts with the government. Alda, an Emmy winner many times over, received a long overdue Oscar nomination, playing the Senator with such a smug, self-satisfaction, he quickly becomes the closest thing to an antagonist that the movie has and it's a role Alda relishes.
Martin Scorsese would finally win an Oscar for Best Direction a couple of years later for The Departed but he could have won it for this just as well. In fact, it may be more difficult telling a story that most people going to see it already have an idea about in their head. Certainly, most audiences had an idea about how Hughes and Hepburn should look and sound and to Scorsese's credit, he allowed his actors to create roles that worked as three dimensional portraits, not one dimensional impersonations, and the movie's all the better for it.
By Greg Ferrara
At the beginning of the picture, only the Miramax Films and Warner Bros. logos appear, then the title. At the end of the film, the credits for director Martin Scorsese, writer John Logan, the production companies, producers, executive producers and actor Leonardo DiCaprio appear before the title is shown again. The main actors are then listed, beginning with Cate Blanchett and ending with Jude Law. Credits for several more actors are intercut with credits for the leading crew members, such as director of photography Robert Richardson and production designer Dante Ferretti. When the roster of cast and character names begins, the lead actors are listed first, followed by a list of other actors in order of their appearance. Throughout the film, title cards appear indicating times, places and character names.
According to various news items, at one point more than seven projects on the life of Howard Hughes were in development, including a long time plan by actor-producer Warren Beatty. As various projects dissolved, two separate projects about Hughes appeared to be in simultaneous development. A January 9, 2005 New York Times article, however, details that there was only one Hughes project, which producer Charles Evans, Jr. had been interested in for twelve years. The article indicates that Evans and his business partner, Michael Mann, began development on the film, hiring writers Dean Ollins, then John Fincher to work on a screenplay. Writer John Logan was brought on board in 1999. A February 2000 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that although Mann originally agreed to direct the film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for New Line Cinema, he later decided not to direct the project but remain as producer with his Forward Pass production company.
A March 1, 2001 Daily Variety article noted that producer Evans and Acappella Pictures sued New Line and Mann, claiming they had ousted him from the production. According to the article, in 1997 Evans approached actor Kevin Spacey about directing the project, which was then in co-development with Mann. Evans and Spacey interested New Regency in developing the project with Fincher set as the writer. Evans claimed to have approached DiCaprio in 1998 to star, but stated that the actor requested director approval. Evans' suit stated that he dropped Spacey and agreed to Mann as director, but that his former partner then absconded with the project, taking it to New Line. According to the January 2005 New York Times article, Evans settled the suit and received a producer credit. His role as producer remained controversial, however, when the picture was nominated for various Best Picture awards (see below).
A January 2002 Daily Variety article noted that Martin Scorsese, who had directed DiCaprio in the 2002 release Gangs of New York (see below) was brought on to direct The Aviator at DiCaprio's request. An April 2004 Daily Variety article revealed that Warner Bros., which had originally purchased the North American distribution rights of The Aviator, then went into partnership with Miramax on financing the film. The companies agreed that Miramax would handle U.S. and European distribution, with Warner Bros. retaining foreign and ancillary rights.
A February 2003 US Weekly news item mentioned that actresses Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were being considered for the same role. The item mentioned the role as tobacco heiress Doris Duke, but Duke had no relationship with Hughes and her character is not in the released film. A June 2003 Los Angeles Times item and a December 2004 New York Times article mentioned that Kidman was under consideration for the role of Katharine Hepburn, but withdrew due to scheduling conflicts. A June 2003 Daily Variety item noted that Matt Ross took over the role of "Glenn Odekirk" when Barry Pepper withdrew due to an earlier commitment.
Although most of the characters in the film are based on actual persons, "Professor Fitz," played by Ian Holm, was entirely fictitious. Production notes and reviews on the film stated that the first half of the film, composed of events approximately up to 1936, recreated a two-strip red and blue-green Technicolor effect that was in use from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s. Portions of the film that take place later in Hughes's life recreated the bright cyan-magenta-yellow three-strip Technicolor look of the 1940s and 1950s. Production information details the meticulous recreation of the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub. The exterior of Grauman's Chinese Theatre was also recreated for the elaborate premiere of Hell's Angels, but the actual Chinese Theatre was used for interiors. The Hollywood Blvd. premiere sequence combined news footage that had been colorized with digital enhancements.
News items stated that the bulk of the film was shot in Montreal, Quebec, Canada at the Technoparc in Mel's Cité du Cinema. An item in Daily Variety from November 2003 indicated that wildfires in Southern California burned down a set for the film at Big Sky Ranch. The film then moved to Long Beach to complete shooting. Other California locations for the film mentioned by Daily Variety and press notes were Palos Verdes, Santa Clarita, Oxnard and the San Bernardino airport.
The film correctly presents the basic facts of the life of Hughes: In 1909, Howard Robard Hughes, Sr. made his fortune by developing a diamond drill bit that could bore through any substance, and wisely chose to rent rather than sell the bits to oil companies and riggers, then guaranteed a world market by patenting the bit in numerous foreign countries. Hughes's wife Allene died unexpectedly in 1922 at the age of thirty-nine after undergoing a routine surgical procedure. Upon the death of his father in January 1924, Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (1905-1976) became a millionaire by inheriting the controlling interest in the Houston-based Hughes Tool Company.
Upon receiving his inheritance, Hughes, Jr. promptly bought out his relatives' interest in the company, causing a lifelong rift with his father's side of the family. Within six months young Hughes was Hughes Tool Company's sole owner, and at the age of nineteen, won a legal petition to be declared an adult. Never interested in running the company, Hughes wrote down in 1925 the three things he wanted to do with his life, echoed in The Aviator's closing shot of him recalling his childhood: to be the world's best golfer, the world's best pilot and the most famous movie producer. In the film, the wish to be the world's best golfer is replaced by the child Howard declaring that he intends to be "the richest man in the world."
As shown in the opening sequence in The Aviator, Allene Hughes's excessive fears of contagious diseases May have influenced Hughes's later preoccupations and phobias. Biographies on Hughes indicate that from an early age he learned to feign illness in order to stop parental disagreements or simply to gain attention. The biographies comment on Allene's excessive overprotective attitude toward her only child, yet also note that the few times Hughes was allowed away from home, he behaved normally. Some biographies conclude that in his late twenties Hughes contracted syphilis and the extremely contagious disease heightened his already established health phobias and fear of germs.
Hughes's interest in motion pictures was likely influenced by spending time with his father's brother Rupert, a movie director and writer in burgeoning Hollywood. Rupert was also known for throwing lavish star-studded parties, to which Hughes, Sr. often brought young Howard. After Hughes, Sr.'s death, Rupert attempted to become his nephew's guardian, but Hughes, Jr. refused, permanently breaking with his uncle. The Aviator does not mention Hughes's marriage at nineteen to a twenty-one-year-old Houston socialite, Ella Rice. The marriage lasted four years and biographers speculate was likely undertaken by Hughes to keep his fortune from his relatives in the event of his early death. Unlike the film, in real life, Hughes did not hire his longtime executive assistant Noah Dietrich on the set of Hell's Angels, but rather two years earlier and, according to modern sources, initially to manage his budding film production company, Caddo Co. (a subsidiary of Caddo Rock Drill Bit Company of Louisiana). Later, as related in the film, Dietrich would manage the Houston operation of Hughes Tool Company.
Prior to Hell's Angels, Hughes produced several films including the 1927 Two Arabian Knights (for which director Lewis Milestone won an Academy Award) and 1928's The Racket. As shown in The Aviator, Hughes took over direction of Hell's Angels with no prior directing experience and, having purchased seventy-eight planes to be used in the film, was the owner of the largest private air fleet in the country. In January 1928, Hughes received his pilot's license and insisted on joining stunt pilots during the filming only to suffer the first of four major crashes in his career. Two of those crashes are shown in the The Aviator. The Hell's Angels production, as noted in the film, was the most expensive to that time, ultimately costing $4,000,000, and brought Jean Harlow to the attention of M-G-M, where she would go on to a successful career (for more information on the above titles, see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30).
Hughes went on to produce several more films including the 1931 The Front Page and the censorship-plagued Scarface in 1932, both released by United Artists (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In The Aviator when Hughes runs into difficulties with the film industry censor board, the MPAA, over The Outlaw, he refers to Scarface, and posters of the film are on prominent display in Hughes's Hollywood offices. Hughes directed only two films, Hell's Angels and The Outlaw, which he took over after the initial director, Howard Hawks, quit. As shown in the movie, Hughes's obsession with displaying the ample breasts of star Jane Russell resulted in numerous run-ins with the MPAA. Despite these difficulties, the film opened in 1943 for a brief, successful run in San Francisco, but upon encountering more censorship problems, Hughes pulled the picture until 1946. (For more information on the complicated censorship issues facing the film, consult the entry in AFI Catalog of Feature Film, 1941-50.)
As depicted in The Aviator, Hughes's extreme interest in aviation and airplanes led him to co-design with Richard Palmer the H-1 Racer, built by Glenn Odekirk and now on display at the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum. The Aviator showed actual footage of newsreel reports tracing Hughes's July 1938 record-setting flight around the world in three days in a Lockheed 4N Super Electra. The film's footage of Hughes deplaning after his triumphant flight featured Hughes's face digitally replaced with that of DiCaprio, but the ticker-tape parade sequence down Broadway in New York City featured footage of the real Hughes.
As shown in the film, after Hughes's purchase of commercial airline TWA, he attempted to secure a contract with the Army Air Force in order to continue developing aircraft. In 1942 Hughes agreed to join with aluminum magnate Henry J. Kaiser to design and construct an enormous cargo plane to carry crucial supplies overseas. Hughes and Kaiser received a military contract for the plane which, as shown in the film, Hughes called the Hercules or the HK-1. Not depicted in The Aviator was the initial decision by the army to cancel the contract for the Hercules, concluding that Hughes Aircraft could not complete both it and the reconnaissance plane, the XF-11. The XF-11 production contract would eventually be canceled by the air force in late May 1945, a fact placed elsewhere in the film. Hughes completed the XF-11 in 1946 and convinced the air force to allow him to test the plane.
As shown in great detail in the film, during the end of Hughes's XF-11 test flight over Culver City, CA, one of the dual propellers reversed pitch due to an oil leak, sending the plane spiraling out of control. Hughes attempted to land at the Los Angeles Country Club, but fell just short, crashing into two houses on North Linden Drive in Beverly Hills, one of which belonged to well-known film character actress Rosemary DeCamp. A third house on North Whittier was engulfed in flames when the XF-11 exploded. As shown in the film, the severely injured Hughes was pulled from the burning plane by a Marine visiting the neighborhood. Hughes successfully piloted the XF-11 in 1947 without incident.
In 1939, as related in The Aviator, Hughes went on to purchase what was then called Transcontinental and Western Air, or TWA. TWA's president, William John "Jack" Frye, did indeed encourage Hughes to acquire the company because the board was reluctant to purchase or build new planes. Hughes, who had established ties with airline manufacturer Lockheed from his round-the-world record-setting flight, was the actual instigator of the design of the successful Constellation. By 1946, the plane turned TWA into a flourishing commercial international air carrier that was eventually renamed Trans World Airlines, but retained the TWA moniker. Although events in The Aviator end in 1947, Hughes retained control of TWA for many more years. In 1957, however, Hughes's attempt to upgrade TWA's fleet failed when he could not afford to meet the required costs. Due to his continued financial mismanagement, in 1960 Hughes was eventually forced out of his position as chairman by TWA executives. As Hughes remained the company's major stockholder and could still intercede in financial decisions, the company's executive committee filed a lawsuit in August 1961 accusing him of illegally using TWA to fund other private investments. During the suit, which ran for several years, when TWA teetered on bankruptcy, Pan Am's president, Juan Trippe, offered to merge Pan Am with TWA as long as Hughes was cut out, but the deal eventually collapsed. In 1965, Hughes sold his TWA stock for 546 million dollars.
In spite of his increasing mental breakdowns and withdrawal into seclusion, Hughes retained his avid interest in aviation, later acquiring the regional carrier Air West, which he renamed Hughes Air West. The carrier primarily serviced Las Vegas, where he resided for a lengthy period. In 1991, after a series of unsuccessful organizational restructures, Hughes's and TWA's great rival Pan Am ceased operations. Ten years later, the financially plagued TWA was absorbed by American Airlines.
A critical portion of The Aviator was based on records from the actual Senate Committee Investigating National Defense and hearings led by Republican senator Ralph Owen Brewster. As shown in the film, Pan Am's Trippe and Brewster came together to sponsor a bill, which would require all American airlines flying abroad to give up their routes to a consolidated international airline corporation in which the largest carrier, Pan Am, would have a controlling interest. Brewster's committee began a vigorous investigation of Hughes as a wartime contractor, claiming that Hughes Aircraft received 40 million dollars of government funding but failed to complete the Hercules or the XF-11. When the Hercules was criticized during the hearings, called by its derogatory name of the "Spruce Goose," Hughes defended the craft, insisting its development was a major advance for aviation. The ineffectual hearings were recessed for three months and resumed in November 1947 but closed three weeks later.
Motivated by the attack on the Hercules in the senate hearings, Hughes turned to proving that the huge boat plane could fly. As shown in the film, in the fall of 1947 the Hercules had to be disassembled for its relocation from Culver City to Long Beach, CA. The plane is still the largest ever built, 218 feet long with a wingspan of 320 feet and a weight of 400,000 pounds. In Long Beach Harbor on November 2, 1947, Hughes ran numerous tests on the giant plane and as shown in the film, on the last test, made a successful takeoff and flew approximately one mile at about seventy feet in the air. It was the only flight the Hercules ever made. Hughes put the plane into a specially built hangar where it remained for thirty-three years. After Hughes's death his holding company, the Summa Corporation, donated the plane to the Aero Club of California, which put it on display in Long Beach next to the Queen Mary. In 1990 the Hercules was transported to its new home at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, OR, where it is on permanent display.
As shown in the film, throughout most of his life, Hughes was linked in the press to numerous Hollywood film stars. Hughes's love affair with Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) was true, although details and the chronology of their relationship were altered for the dramatization. As mentioned in The Aviator, Hepburn did move into Hughes's Muirfield Road home in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. After the end of their romantic involvement, Hepburn and Hughes remained on friendly terms and Hughes maintained a particular interest in her film career. Unmentioned in the film was the fact that Hughes bought Hepburn the film rights to the Philip Barry play that would re-launch her Hollywood career, The Philadelphia Story (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
As depicted in the film, Hughes had a long on-and-off-again relationship with Ava Gardner (1922-1990), who indicated in her autobiography that she found the millionaire pleasant but eccentric, and consistently refused his numerous gifts of expensive jewelry. Gardner made no mention of assisting Hughes through any severe emotional breakdowns, as portrayed in the film. Hughes was also closely involved with starlet Faith Domergue (1924-1999), whose contract he purchased from Warner Bros. in 1940 and whom he promised to marry and make a great film star. Domergue appeared in Hughes's troubled production of Vendetta and the film noir Where Danger Lives, both released in 1950 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50) by RKO, which Hughes then owned, then went on to make several films throughout the 1950s, predominantly Westerns and science fiction features. A biography on Hughes details a jealous outburst similar to one shown in The Aviator in which Domergue rams her car into one carrying Hughes and Gardner.
Not shown in the film was Hughes's relationship with Twentieth-Cenury Fox star Jean Peters, whom he married in January 1957. The couple rarely lived together and Peters divorced Hughes in 1971 and never commented on their relationship. After Hughes's death in 1976, actress Terry Moore testified in court that they had been married briefly on board a yacht in 1949, but the courts declared the marriage illegal. Hughes's wealth, eccentric behavior and personal relationships continued to make him a figure of great interest after his death, and numerous biographies, some sensationalistic, many citing the numerous claims made on his estate, were published over several years.
Another true element depicted in The Aviator was the severe obsessive compulsive disorder and eccentric phobias from which Hughes suffered throughout his adult life. Unlike the movie, however, Hughes did not suffer a complete breakdown after the XF-11 crash and before the senate investigation hearings. In August 1944, however, Hughes did suffer what several biographies describe as a nervous breakdown, preceded by a compulsive repetition of phrases. Overwhelmed by work pressures, Hughes disappeared for eleven months. In 1975, a Hughes Aircraft mechanic published an article claiming that during the eleven months of Hughes's 1944 disappearance, he and the millionaire flew back and forth from Las Vegas to Palm Springs to Reno, staying in hotels under assumed names.
The seclusion and mental collapse depicted in the film did occur to Hughes, but not until early 1958, after a falling-out with Dietrich that prompted his resignation and increased financial difficulties at TWA. Although married to Peters by this time, Hughes secluded himself in the private West Hollywood screening room of producer Martin Nosseck for several months, eating candy bars, watching movies and going about naked. In the summer of 1958, Hughes moved to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where his mental collapse worsened and he became obsessed with repeating cleaning procedures for his staff while neglecting his personal hygiene and diet for several more months. Hughes was gradually able to resume making business decisions, yet his eccentric behavior and mental breakdowns continued, resulting eventually in his complete seclusion and isolation.
There have been many films and television movies based on, or inspired by Hughes's life, and several unrealized projects, among them an unproduced Warren Beatty film in development for many years. Completed projects include a 1977 CBS television broadcast entitled The Amazing Howard Hughes, based, in part, on a book written by Dietrich, starring Tommy Lee Jones as Hughes, Ed Flanders as Dietrich and Tovah Feldshuh as Hepburn, directed by William A. Graham. In 1980 MCA/Universal Pictures released Melvin and Howard, based on one of the many claimants to Hughes's fortune, gas station owner Melvin Dummar, purportedly left a portion of Hughes's estate after he helped the aged millionaire in 1968 in the Nevada desert. Jason Robards played Hughes and Paul LeMat co-starred as Dummar. The film was directed by Jonathan Demme. Many critics and film historians note that Harold Robbins' novel and the subsequent 1964 Paramount film The Carpetbaggers is loosely based on the life of Hughes.
The Aviator was selected by AFI as one of its Top Ten films of 2004, and the National Board of Review also cited the picture as one of the ten best films of the year. The picture received three Golden Globe awards: for Best Picture-Drama, Best Performance by an Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Best Original Score (Howard Shore), and three other nominations: Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Cate Blanchett) and Best Screenplay (John Logan). Controversy about Charles Evans, Jr. continued at the Golden Globe ceremony when Evans appeared with Michael Mann and Graham King at the press conference following the awards, even though he had been requested not to participate.
The Aviator received five Academy Awards, Supporting Actress (Blanchett), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design and Film Editing. The film received additional nominations in the following catagories: Picture, Direction, Original Screenplay, Actor (DiCaprio), Supporting Actor (Alan Alda)and Sound Mixing. When the Academy Award nominations were announced on January 25, 2005, the names of those producers eligible to receive the nominations for The Aviator, Ray and Million Dollar Baby were withheld pending determination. On February 5, 2005, the Producers Branch Executive Committee of the Academy announced that Mann and King were the sole producers nominated for The Aviator.
Blanchett also won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Supporting Female Actor and the film received nominations for DiCaprio for Best Male Actor in a lead role and the ensemble cast. The British Academy of Film and Television selected Blanchett as Best Supporting Actress and named IThe Aviator as Best Film, with Evans included as one of the producer recipients of the award.
Additionally, Mann and King, but not Evans, received the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Best Picture from the Producers Guild of America; Scorsese received a Best Director nomination from the Directors Guild; John Logan received a Best Original Screenplay nomination from the Writers Guild; and Robert Richardson received a Best Cinematography nomination from the American Society of Cinematographers.
Winner of three 2004 awards including Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Special Effects in Service to Visual Effects in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture by the Visual Effects Society (VES).
Winner of two 2004 awards including Best Original Score and co-winner of the award for Best Cinematography by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA).
Limited Release in United States December 17, 2004
Released in United States Winter December 17, 2004
Expanded Release in United States December 25, 2004
Released in United States on Video May 24, 2005
Previously set up at Disney and New Line. Michael Mann was previously attached to direct, and was replaced by Martin Scorsese. Barry Pepper was previously attached to play Glenn Odekirk, and was replaced by Matthew Brandon Ross.
IEG put up 60% of the budget and control foreign distribution while Warners and Miramax will split the remaining 40%.
Limited Release in United States December 17, 2004
Released in United States Winter December 17, 2004
Expanded Release in United States December 25, 2004
Released in United States on Video May 24, 2005
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2004 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of four 2004 awards including Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Production Design and Best Make-Up/Hair by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
Winner of the 2004 American Cinema Editors (ACE) award for feature film editing of a dramatic film.
Winner of the 2004 award for Best Picture by the Producer's Guild of America (PGA).
Winner of the 2004 award for Best Production Design by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA).
Winner of the 2004 award for Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett) by the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA).
Winner of the 2004 award for Director of the Year by the London Critics' Circle.
Winner of the 2004 award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing by the Cinema Audio Society (CAS).
Winner of the 2004 Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing in Domestic Features - Sound Effects & Foley by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).
Winner of the 2004 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett).
Co-winner of the 2004 Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects by the International Press Academy (IPA).