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.