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15 Grounded Facts About The Aviator

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The Aviator—the second collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio—was the long-awaited (and, according to some, unfilmable) biopic of the enigmatic Howard Hughes. Set largely between the late 1920s, when Hughes was a film producer, and the late 1940s, when he was a rich aviation pioneer losing control due to his OCD, the 2004 film featured an all-star cast including DiCaprio as Hughes, plus Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, and Alan Alda. Here are some facts about The Aviator that may or may not be the way of the future.

1. WARREN BEATTY, STEVEN SPIELBERG, JIM CARREY, AND CHRISTOPHER NOLAN ALL TOYED WITH THE IDEA OF MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT HOWARD HUGHES.

Throughout the 1980s, Steven Spielberg expressed an interest in directing Warren Beatty in a "Citizen Kane-like" biopic of Hughes, calling Hughes a "very interesting subject" in 1990. After directing Insomnia (2002), Christopher Nolan was set to direct Jim Carrey as Hughes before Scorsese got started on The Aviator. Word spread that Nolan was planning to go ahead with his interpretation in 2012 anyway, but that he would use different source material than The Aviator. Nolan later changed his mind.

2. KEVIN SPACEY WAS ORIGINALLY ATTACHED TO DIRECT.

Producer Charles Evans Jr., nephew of the legendary studio executive Robert Evans, had been developing a film based on Charles Higham's book, Howard Hughes: The Secret Life, since 1993. In 1997, he spoke with Spacey about directing the film. Spacey was attached as director until Evans convinced DiCaprio to play Hughes in 1998; the star's reps insisted that DiCaprio would never be involved with a director he himself had not selected. So DiCaprio chose Michael Mann. When Mann made a deal with a different studio to do a Hughes project, Evans Jr. sued him, his agent, and New Line Cinema. Mann, too, would ultimately abandon the director's chair on the film, but did serve as one of its producers—as did Evans Jr., after the suit was settled.

3. NICOLE KIDMAN WAS MARTIN SCORSESE'S SECOND CHOICE FOR KATHARINE HEPBURN.

Cate Blanchett was Scorsese's first choice for the role, but she had a prior commitment; so Scorsese turned to Kidman. Rumors circulated that made it unclear as to whether Kidman was ever officially offered the role and/or turned it down, but Scorsese insisted that Blanchett was always his first choice. When production on The Aviator was delayed, Blanchett was able to play the role of the iconic actress after all.

4. CATE BLANCHETT DID HER HOMEWORK.

At Scorsese's request, Blanchett watched all of Hepburn's first 15 movies. Blanchett also screened epburn's 1973 interview with Dick Cavett, read a memoir about her, took golf and tennis lessons, and took cold baths just like Hepburn. On June 29, 2003—the same day that Blanchett arrived on set for the first time—Hepburn passed away. "I picked up the paper thinking, 'Isn't it odd that Katharine Hepburn's on the cover?'" Blanchett recalled. "She had such a remarkable life, and then with her death, she was even more present in everyone's mind."

5. GWYNETH PALTROW WAS ORIGINALLY SIGNED TO PLAY AVA GARDNER.

The part went to Kate Beckinsale instead, for unknown reasons. Beckinsale gained 20 pounds to play Gardner—mainly by eating chocolates.

6. MARTIN SCORSESE WANTED TO CAST GWEN STEFANI AFTER SEEING HER PICTURE ON THE SIDE OF A BUS SHELTER.

The Marilyn Monroe-inspired pictures, taken by Herb Ritts for a Teen Vogue cover, caught Scorsese's eye. Stefani told MTV the story, as she heard it from DiCaprio. “Martin Scorsese’s driving in New York City and he sees my Teen Vogue cover on the side of a bus stop shelter. And he’s like, ’Who’s that girl? Let’s get her!’ I had Leonardo DiCaprio tell me the whole story in Martin Scorsese’s voice, so it was pretty bizarre.” Stefani portrayed Jean Harlow; it was her first film role.

7. SCREENWRITER JOHN LOGAN WROTE 15 DRAFTS OF THE SCRIPT OVER FIVE YEARS.

Screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall) came up with an original script of 225 pages, to the then "joyous" Mann. DiCaprio read each draft and talked with Logan about history and read Senate transcripts of the Hughes trials. Logan, DiCaprio, and Scorsese went through the scripts page by page, with DiCaprio reading Hughes' part and Logan reading all of the others.

8. LEONARDO DICAPRIO LEARNED TO FLY.

According to the official production notes, the Titanic star learned how to fly Hughes' "daredevil" aerial maneuvers. He also read several books about Hughes, listened to tape recordings of him, watched his old movies, and talked about Hughes with Jane Russell (star of Hughes' The Outlaw) and Terry Moore (Hughes' alleged wife), in addition to working with Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz of UCLA, a leading physician on obsessive compulsive disorder.

9. THERE WAS NO PROFESSOR FITZ.

Logan had to make characters out of conflations of some real people in Hughes' orbit, and in one case had to create a whole new person in Professor Fitz, played by Ian Holm.

10. THE COLOR PALETTE CHANGED AS TIME PROGRESSED.

Scorsese decided he wanted the Technicolor two-strip red and blue-green look for the first act, which took place up to 1936, to approximate as much as possible the color film technology available during that time, and then the bright cyan-magenta-yellow three-strip Technicolor look in the scenes portraying the 1940s and '50s.

11. IT WAS FILMED IN MONTREAL AND LOS ANGELES.

The front and forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre was recreated in Montreal—and made one foot larger than the original—to recreate the 1930 premiere of Hell's Angels. The Cocoanut Grove was recreated on a Montreal soundstage as well.

12. MODEL AIRPLANES WERE USED.

The Huntington Beach, California based Aero Telemetry constructed 11 model airplanes. The "Spruce Goose" they made featured a 25-foot wingspan, weighed 375 pounds, and flew with electric motors.

13. JOHN C. REILLY DEFIED SCORSESE.

Despite the director asking everyone on the set of Gangs of New York (2002) to call him "Marty," Reilly—Happy Jack Mulraney in Gangs of New York and Noah Dietrich in The Aviator—kept calling him "Mr. Scorsese," believing it to be disrespectful to do otherwise. Reilly believed it drove the director "mad." By the end of filming for The Aviator, Reilly finally started referring to his director as "Marty."

14. THE FILM WENT $500,000 OVER BUDGET.

Scorsese personally paid the $500,000 out of his own pocket to cover the overage.

15. JANE LYNCH PLAYED AMELIA EARHART.

If you're wondering why you don't remember seeing Jane Lynch in the film, it is because her scenes were cut out entirely.

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC

At its best, San Diego Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’s Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of 2016 and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Just a few months later, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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