Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio
Genre: Biography, Drama
The Aviator is a 2004 American biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by John Logan, produced by Graham King and Michael Mann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio (who also serves as an executive producer), Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda, John C. Reilly, and Alec Baldwin.
The script begins as a young Hughes directs one of Scorsese’s favorite films, Hell’s Angels. Hughes was so obsessed with perfection in the aerial sequences that he waits forever for perfect conditions, right down to cloud formations. The Aviator ends in 1946 when Hughes was still a dashing young man and romancing actresses like Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn.
- Leonardo DiCaprio spent a day with Jane Russell to hear her memories and impressions of Howard Hughes. She was very impressed with DiCaprio’s visit and told him that Hughes was a quiet yet extremely stubborn man who always got his way in the end.
- Michael Mann was originally going to direct the film, but having directed back-to-back biopics The Insider and Ali, he decided to produce instead and offered the script to Martin Scorsese.
- This is the first feature film that Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company “Appian Way” is involved with.
- Martin Scorsese designed each year in the film to look just the way a color film from that time period would look. Achieved mainly through digitally enhanced post-production, Scorsese recreated the look of Cinecolor and two-strip Technicolor. Watch in particular for the scene where Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets Errol Flynn (Jude Law) in the club. Hughes is served precisely placed peas on a plate, and they appear blue or turquoise – just as they’d have looked in the primitive two-strip Technicolor process. As Hughes ages throughout the film, the color gets more sophisticated and full-bodied.
- Barry Pepper was due to play Howard Hughes’s chief engineer, Glenn Odekirk, but due to prior commitment and scheduling conflicts with the film Ripley Under Ground, he had to drop out.
- Also in preparation for his role as Howard Hughes, Leonardo DiCaprio spent some time with an actual OCD patient named Edward. He advised him on a number of different aspects of the condition, in particular the tendency to repeat sentences over and over as in the scene where Hughes repeatedly asks to see the blueprints for the Hercules.
- Production was delayed in October 2003, when wildfires in southern California burned several sets.
- Gwyneth Paltrow was originally signed on to play Ava Gardner but dropped out. She was replaced at the last minute with Kate Beckinsale.
- Freckles were painstakingly painted onto Cate Blanchett’s face, arms and chest to make her resemble Katharine Hepburn.
- Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Katharine Hepburn makes her the first performer to win an Oscar for playing a real-life Oscar winner (Hepburn won a record 4).
- Cate Blanchett felt that accurately reproducing Katharine Hepburn’s distinctive upper-class New Englander accent was crucial to her portrayal of this Hollywood icon. She did daily voice exercises with the film’s voice coach Tim Monich (with whom Blanchett had worked previously on The Talented Mr. Ripley), and also studied Hepburn’s early films and documentaries about her to learn her mannerisms.
- Cate Blanchett had three different red-hair wigs for this film.
- The acting debut of singer Gwen Stefani. Martin Scorsese was looking for someone to fill the role of Jean Harlow when he noticed Stefani appearing on a Vogue cover poster in New York.
- Martin Scorsese requested that Cate Blanchett watch all of the first 15 films of Katharine Hepburn to learn her mannerism and her poise.
- Nicole Kidman was also considered for the role of Katharine Hepburn. When the scheduled start date was delayed by several months, Cate Blanchett became available after finishing filming The Missing. Martin Scorsese claims that Blanchett had always been his first choice.
- In preparation for her role as Katharine Hepburn, Cate Blanchett learned to play tennis and golf and took cold showers, something Hepburn is known for.
- The budget for the costumes was $2 million.
- Kate Beckinsale gained 20 pounds for her portrayal of Ava Gardner.
- Jane Lynch’s scenes as Amelia Earhart were cut from the movie.