Christopher Nolan To Make Shelved Howard Hughes Biopic After 'The Dark Knight Rises'?

by Kevin Jagernauth
February 11, 2011 9:55 AM
12 Comments
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Plans To Shoot In 2012 & Release The Film In 2014



Could Christopher Nolan be plotting out his next film even before he's shot "The Dark Knight Rises"? According to Vulture, the answer is yes.

First, let's rewind a bit. Back in 2002, both Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan were mounting competing biopics on Howard Hughes. Of course, we all know that Scorsese won out and delivered "The Aviator." But Nolan had lined up Jim Carrey in his version, and was planning to base his film on the book "Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters." Sounds intriguing right? Clearly the project is still on the brain as in a recent interview, packaged with the shooting script for "Inception" that came with special edition releases of the film on DVD/BluRay, Nolan talked about the aborted film:

“The underlying philosophy for me, in terms of the complexity of the film, had always been that those things that had allowed “Memento” to succeed with audiences in a very mainstream fashion could be tapped to make a huge-scale movie. And that’s the premise on which “Inception”‘s been built. I tried to do it with my Howard Hughes project first. And when that wasn’t going to fly, I put a lot of that thinking into this; into fusing the scale and entertainment value of a large film with something more - and I really don’t want to say “challenging for an audience” because I don’t think it is—that’s just a little different and a little bit of a shift.”

It certainly seems that Nolan appears to be fascinated with presenting challenging material within the context and scope of a mainstream blockbuster, and there is probably no figure in recent history as mysterious, compelling, contradictory and fascinating as Howard Hughes. Industrialist, engineer, film mogul and yes, aviator extraordinaire, Hughes is as well known for his industry as for his increasingly bizarre behaviour in the later stages of his life. And while Scorsese's film, "The Aviator," only touched upon this, Nolan will dive right in. Vulture now updates that Nolan will be using Michael Drosnin’s "Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness" as his source material which focuses heavily on the freakier side of the Hughes legend. And this isn't just based on hearsay and rumor. Drosnin sourced his book from over three thousand pages of Hughes’ own handwritten memoranda that was stolen from his offices in 1975. Vulture gives the rundown of what we might expect:

We'll meet the Howard Hughes who spent much of 1948 sitting naked in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel with only a pink dinner napkin covering his genitals as he screened movies from his studio, RKO Pictures, and ran up an $11 million tab; the Hughes who — obsessed with food safety — once bought every franchise restaurant chain in his home state of Texas, and who was similarly so concerned about air quality that he installed an aircraft filtration system in his 1954 Chrysler New Yorker, taking up its entire trunk; the Howard Hughes who had his hair cut and nails trimmed only once a year, and who was seemingly as addicted to Baskin Robbins Banana Ripple ice cream as he was to regular codeine injections; the Hughes who at the end of his life considered only Mormons trustworthy enough to be let into his inner circle.

With Nolan long being interested in the tenuous relationships between reality, illusion, delusion and dream, this material is right up his alley and we'd expect that it won't just be a straight, ordinarily structured biopic but perhaps something more cerebral as he dives into Hughes' loosening grip on reality, his paranoia and other anxieties.

The plan is for Nolan to shoot the film in late 2012 and release it in 2014, marking a full decade since Scorsese's film -- a buffer that Nolan feels will be adequate in letting him tell his story without comparisons being made to "The Aviator." No word yet on what studio will take on Nolan's biopic, but considering he's now ensconced with Warner Bros., trusted with their most important franchises, and more importantly, showed them that original blockbusters can work like gangbusters, we can't see him going anywhere else.

Of course, the question of who will play Hughes is now going to be ripe for speculation and Nolan doesn't like to go too far from his usual roster of players. Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy are likely to start being rumored so we'll just get it out of the way right here.

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12 Comments

  • Jack | July 26, 2011 8:59 AMReply

    I'm looking forward to the new biopic of Howard Hughes. Hopefully there will be more truths told about him. Even though it has been written that he was not able to walk or that he had long hair and long finger nails or that he never returned to Las Vegas is that really true? I will agree that he had long hair down to his shoulders and his finger nails were from 1/4 to 3/8", but I don't agree with him not being able to walk or that he never returned to Las Vegas after leaving on November 20, 1970. The reason why is because I witnessed a photograph being taken of him in front of the Mint Hotel in Las vegas in March of 1971. Howard Hughes with Levar B. Myler, (a senior penthouse aide) to his left and John H. Meier, (his business manager who is better known for his involvement in Watergate) standing to his right. In the front passenger seat of the black Cadillac Limo that was park at the curb sat John M. Holmes Jr.,(another senior aide). Hopefully this photo will be found so the stories about Mr Hughes can be corrected. For more details on how I know can be found with a search search under Levar B. Myler.

  • Drock | February 12, 2011 9:13 AMReply

    First off I just want to say that this article is better then any other one I have read so far about this subject, so keep up the good work. Secondly, Rodie, he already wrote this script and the only reason he didn't get it made was of Scorsese's take on it and Scorsese having more credibility at the time.

  • Amir Syarif Siregar | February 12, 2011 5:34 AMReply

    This is the movie that will finally make The Academy notices Nolan's directorial existence eh?

  • babs | February 12, 2011 4:03 AMReply

    I agree with Cory. Nolan and Leo DiCaprio clearly have a relationship now, and I'd love to see DiCaprio reprise his brilliant portrayal. it's been a while, but if I remember correctly, most of THE AVIATOR took place in the '20's. If this one takes place later, Leo will be aged a bit.

  • Guh | February 12, 2011 3:16 AMReply

    Yeah, I remember when Nolan was going to make this flick. Wasn't it after Insomnia and before The Prestige? Either way, I remember him saying in an interview that he was more proud of that script than any other he had written. At least at that time anyway.

  • KitCon | February 12, 2011 1:46 AMReply

    What's the big challenge here? Too similar to Memento and Inception. If he wants to do biopic I'd prefer to see him go into entirely unfamiliar territory like Julius Caesar and show us what he can do with that.

  • BuntyHoven | February 12, 2011 1:37 AMReply

    The Aviator is fucking brilliant - a true underrated gem. But there's enough stuff around for another look at Hughes, and I'd be delighted if Nolan takes this on. Interesting that he had Carrey lined up. Wonder if he'll approach him again. Bale would be a reliable choice.

  • hmm | February 12, 2011 1:02 AMReply

    I hope this is true. "The Aviator"'s treatment of hughes was like making a biopic about Superman and only concentrating on the quality of his reporting at the Daily Planet.

  • rodie | February 12, 2011 12:04 AMReply

    Woah, slow down Chris Nolan.

    I guess that whole "I only think about one film at a time" schtick is over and done with, huh?

  • caro | February 11, 2011 10:53 AMReply

    Michael Caine as Hughes or Guy pearce to be different

  • Muhammed Deshmukh | February 11, 2011 10:39 AMReply

    Pity Leonardo's already been done.

  • Cory Everett | February 11, 2011 10:32 AMReply

    My usual reaction is that biopics are boring but I kinda feel like Nolan can do whatever he want and it will probably be awesome.

    He should cast DiCaprio as Hughes.

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