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The Aviator
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Michael Mann
Sandy Climan
Graham King
Charles Evans, Jr.
Written by John Logan
Michael Mann(uncredited)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Cate Blanchett
Alan Alda
Alec Baldwin
Kate Beckinsale
John C. Reilly
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker
Studio Forward Pass
Appian Way
Initial Entertainment Group
Warner Bros. Pictures
Miramax Films
Cappa Productions
Distributed by USA/UK/Germany theatrical
UK/Germany DVD

Miramax Films
Buena Vista Distribution
Latin America/Australia theatrical
USA/Latin America/Australia DVD

Warner Bros. Pictures
20th Century Fox
Release date(s) United States:
December 17, 2004 (premiere)
United Kingdom:
December 19, 2004 (premiere)
December 25, 2004
February 10, 2005
Running time 169 min.
Language English
Budget $110 million[1]
Gross revenue US$ 212 million

The Aviator is a 2004 American biographical drama film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film, which centers on the life of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, draws largely upon a biography by Charles Higham.[2] The film centers on Hughes' life from the late 1920s to 1947, during which time he gained success as a film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to obsessive-compulsive disorder. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning five.



The film begins in 1914 with nine-year-old Hughes being bathed by his mother, who warns him of disease: "You are not safe."

The film next shows him in 1927, as a 22-year old preparing to direct Hell's Angels. Hiring Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to run Hughes Tool Company, while he oversees the flight sequences for the film, Hughes becomes obsessed with shooting the film realistically, even re-shooting the dogfight himself. By 1929, with the silent film finally complete, Hughes realizes the premiere of the The Jazz Singer, which was the first part-talking film, meaning that sound films would soon become the industry standard. Hughes re-shoots Hell's Angels with sound, costing another year and $1.7 million. Hell's Angels released as a sound film in 1930 is a huge hit, and Hughes also produces Scarface (1932) and The Outlaw (1943). However, there is one goal he relentlessly pursues: aviation. During this time, he also pursues Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett). The two go to nightclubs, play golf and fly together, and as they grow closer, move in together as well. During this time Hepburn becomes a major supporter and confidant to Hughes, and helps alleviate the symptoms of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. As Hughes' fame grows, he is seen with more starlets.

Hughes takes an interest in commercial-passenger travel, and purchases majority interest in Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA), the predecessor to Trans World Airlines. In 1935, he test flies the H-1 Racer but crashes in a beet field; "Fastest man on the planet," he boasts to Hepburn. Three years later, he flies around the world in four days, shattering the previous record by three days. Meanwhile, Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), chairman of the board of Pan American Airlines, and Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda) worry over the possibility that Hughes might beat them in the quest for commercial expansion. Brewster has just introduced the Commercial Airline Bill, which will give world expansion solely to Pan Am. Trippe advises Brewster to check into the "disquieting rumors about Mr. Hughes."

Hepburn and Hughes eventually break up when she announces that she has fallen in love with her movie co-star (although he is briefly seen but never clearly stated, the viewers already know that the co-star is her would be domestic partner Spencer Tracy).

He soon has a new interest: 15-year old Faith Domergue (Kelli Garner) and later, Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). He also fights the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association over the steamy scenes in The Outlaw. He learns of Pan Am's efforts to run TWA off the map yet secures contracts with the Army Air Forces on two projects, a spy plane and a troop transport. By 1946, Hughes has only finished the XF-11 reconnaissance aircraft and is building the H-4 Hercules ("Spruce Goose") flying boat.

With the strain of meeting deadlines and budgets, Hughes starts to show signs of alarming behavior, repeating phrases over and over and exhibiting a phobia over dust and germs. That July, he takes the XF-11 for a test flight. One of the propellers malfunctions, causing a crash in a Beverly Hills neighborhood. Rushed to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, he slowly recuperates and learns the H-4 Hercules transport is no longer needed, but orders production to continue. When he is discharged, the whole TWA fleet is built and ready to go, but he is in danger of being bankrupted by the airline and his flying boat.

Afraid of the media trying to find him, Hughes places microphones and taps Ava's phone lines to keep track of any suspicious activity. After being confronted by Gardner, he returns home to find the FBI searching his house for incriminating evidence that he embezzled government funds. The incident is both a powerful trauma for Hughes and gives his enemies knowledge about his condition. Hughes meets with Brewster, who offers to drop the charges if Hughes supports the CAB and sells the TWA stock to Trippe. Hughes sinks into a deep depression afterwards, shutting himself in his screening room, growing ever more paranoid and detached from reality; terrified of germs, he urinates into dozens of empty milk bottles. Hepburn tries to visit him, but is unable to help. Trippe then pays Hughes a visit, but an enraged Hughes vows he will never sell TWA. Trippe warns Dietrich that the world will see what Hughes has become if he goes to the hearings. After nearly three months, Hughes finally emerges and prepares to face the Senate, with encouragement from Ava Gardner, who helps him get cleaned up.

Hughes arrives at the hearings, and starts off with counter-claiming Brewster's charges: "Why not tell the truth, Senator? Why not tell the truth that this investigation was really born on the day that TWA first decided to fly to Europe?" Humiliated and enraged by this turn of events, Brewster formally states that Hughes charged the Defense Department $56 million for aircraft that never flew. Hughes defends himself and reveals that Trippe essentially bribed Brewster to hold the hearings.

Hughes successfully test flies the flying boat himself. After the flight, he talks to Dietrich and his mechanic, Glenn Odekirk (Matt Ross), about a new jetliner for TWA (the Avro C102 Jetliner) and makes a date with Gardner at a celebration party on the Long Beach shoreline. Hughes seems free of his inner demons until he sees three attendants in business suits and white gloves edging towards him, which triggers an obsessive-compulsive fit as he begins repeating "The way of the future." Dietrich and Odekirk take Hughes in a bathroom and hide him there, while Dietrich fetches a doctor and Odekirk stands outside guarding the door. Alone inside, Howard has a flashback to his boyhood, being washed by his mother and resolving he will fly the fastest aircraft ever built, make the biggest movies ever and become the richest man in the world. As the film ends he mutters "the way of the future... the way of the future" into a darkened mirror.

The H-4 hercules "Spruce Goose" transport


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):[3]



Hughes crashes in a field; screenshot showing the simulated bipack color film used in scenes depicting events before 1935.

For the first 50 minutes of the film, scenes appear in shades of only red and cyan blue; green objects are rendered as blue. This was done, according to Scorsese, to emulate the look of early bipack color movies, in particular the Multicolor process, which Hughes himself owned. Many of the scenes depicting events occurring after 1935 are treated to emulate the saturated appearance of three-strip Technicolor. Other scenes were stock footage colorized and incorporated into the film. The color effects were created by Legend Films.

Movie models

In Aviator, scale models were used to duplicate many of the flying scenes. When Martin Scorsese began planning his aviation epic, a decision was made to film flying sequences with scale models rather than CGI special effects. The critical reaction to the CGI models in Pearl Harbor (2001) had been a crucial factor in Scorsese's decision to use full-scale static and scale models in this case. The building and filming of the flying models proved both cost-effective and timely.[4]

The primary scale models were the Spruce Goose and the F-11; both miniatures were designed and fabricated over a period of several months by New Deal Studios.[5] The 375 lb (170 kg) Spruce Goose model had a wingspan of 20 ft (6.1 m) while the 750 lb (340 kg) XF-11 had a 25 ft (7.6 m) wingspan. Each was built as a motion control miniature used for "beauty shots" of the model taking off and in flight as well as in dry dock and under construction at the miniature Hughes Hangar built as well by New Deal Studios. The XF-11 was reverse engineered from photographs and some rare drawings and then modeled in Rhinoceros 3D by the New Deal art department. These 3D models of the Spruce Goose as well as the XF-11 were then used for patterns and construction drawings for the model makers. In addition to the aircraft, the homes that the XF-11 crashes into were fabricated at 1:4 scale to match the 1:4 scale XF-11. The model was rigged to be crashed and break up several times for different shots.

Additional castings of the Spruce Goose flying boat and XF-11 models were provided for new radio controlled flying versions assembled by the team of model builders from Aero Telemetry.[6] The Aero Telemetry team was given only three months to complete three models including the 450 lb H-1 Racer, with an 18 ft (5.5 m) wingspan, that had to stand-in for the full scale replica that was destroyed in a crash, shortly before principal photography began.[7]

The models were shot on location at Long Beach and other California sites from helicopter or raft platforms.[4] The short but much heralded flight of Hughes’ HK-1 Hercules on 2 November 1947 was realistically recreated in the Port of Long Beach. The motion control Spruce Goose and Hughes Hangar miniatures built by New Deal Studios are presently on display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, with the original Hughes HK-1 "Spruce Goose".


The film had several distributors worldwide. For example, it was distributed in the U.S. (theatrical), UK, and Germany by Miramax Films, and in Latin America, Australia, and on U.S. DVD by Warner Bros. Pictures.

20th Century Fox held Spanish rights.


The film received highly positive reviews with the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 180 out of the 203 reviews they tallied were positive for a score of 88% and certification of freshness.[8] At another review aggregator site Metacritic, the film scored a 77 average out of 100, based on 41 reviews.[9] The film grossed $102 million at the U.S. box office and $111 million at the foreign box office. Film critic Roger Ebert described the film and its subject Howard Hughes in these terms:[10]

What a sad man. What brief glory. What an enthralling film, 166 minutes, and it races past. There's a match here between Scorsese and his subject, perhaps because the director's own life journey allows him to see Howard Hughes with insight, sympathy – and, up to a point, with admiration. This is one of the year's best films.

Box office

USA US$ 102,610,330 (48.0%)
Other US$ 111,131,129 (52.0%)
World US$ 211,741,459

Home media

The film was released in DVD in a two-disc-set in widescreen and full screen versions. The first disc includes commentary with director Martin Scorsese. The second disc includes "The Making of The Aviator," "Deleted Scenes" as well as 11 other special features.

The film was later released in High Definition on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD on November 6, 2007.


Academy Awards record
1. Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett)
2. Editing
3. Cinematography
4. Art Direction
5. Costume Design
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Picture - Drama
2. Drama Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio)
3. Original Score
BAFTA Awards record
1. Picture
2. Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett)
3. Production Design
4. Make-up/Hair

The Aviator was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won five, including Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett. It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film.

See also


  1. ^ The Aviator (2004)
  2. ^ Vanneman, Alan. "The Aviator: Marty and Leo Do Howard." Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 47, February 2005. Retrieved: May 3, 2009.
  3. ^ The Aviator (2004) Full credits
  4. ^ a b Cobb, Jerry. "Movie Models are the real stars of 'The Aviator.'" CNBC, February 25, 2005. Retrieved: March 1, 2008.
  5. ^ New Deal Studios
  6. ^ Note: Aero Telemetry’s primary business was in building UAVs and satellite telemetry systems for the government and defense contractors.
  7. ^ Baker, Mark. "Cottage Grove pilot dies in replica of historic plane." The Register-Guard, August 6, 2003. Retrieved: March 5 2009.
  8. ^ The Aviator - Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved: November 17, 2009.
  9. ^ "Aviator, The (2004): Reviews." Metacritic August 4, 2008.
  10. ^ Suntimes
  • Higham, Charles. Howard Hughes: The Secret Life. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004. ISBN 978-0312329976.
  • Maguglin, Robert O. Howard Hughes, His Achievements & Legacy: the Authorized Pictorial Biography. Long Beach, California: Wrather Port Properties, 1984. ISBN 0-86679-014-4.
  • Marrett, George J. Howard Hughes: Aviator. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2004. ISBN 1-59114-510-4.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama and BAFTA Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
Brokeback Mountain


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to The Aviator article)

From Wikiquote

The Aviator is an Academy Award-winning 2004 biographical drama film, directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a biopic of the aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, following his life from the late 1920s through the 1940s, a time when Hughes was directing and producing Hollywood movies as well as test piloting his own groundbreaking new aircraft.


Howard Hughes

  • Show me all the blueprints.
  • If the Hercules does not fly, I will leave America and never come back again, and I mean it.
  • He owns Pan-Am. He owns Congress. He owns the Civil Aeronautics Board. But he does not own the sky.
  • Quarantine. Q-u-a-r-a-n-t-i-n-e. Quarantine.
  • I'm Howard Hughes, the aviator.
  • Sometimes I truly fear that I... am losing my mind. And if I did it... it would be like flying blind.
  • Find me some clouds!
  • The way of the future.
  • I this the dark. I have a place I can sleep. I have a chair. That's just beautiful. Oh, yeah. I like the desert. It's hot there in the desert, but it's clean. It's clean. I need to sleep. I should drink something first. I should drink something first. Wait a minute. What if that milk is sour? That milk is bad. I shouldn't pick up the bottle of milk with my right hand. And I shouldn't take the top off with my left hand...put it in my pocket. My left pocket.
  • Tell Jimmy I want ten chocolate chip cookies, medium chips, none too close to the outside.
  • Orange juice has... nutritional value. Flies outside the window, though. Little Howard loves orange juice, doesn't he just?
  • You come out of the blue and let me down, and have the nerve to expect graciousness.
  • When I grow up, I'm gonna make the biggest movies, fly the fastest planes ever built, and be the richest man in the world.

Katharine Hepburn

  • Do your worst, Mr. Hughes!
  • You see, Howard, we're not like other people. Too many acute angles. Too many... eccentricities. We have to be very careful who we let in or they'll make us into freaks.
  • Ha! Men can't be friends with women. They must possess them or leave them be. It's a primitive urge from caveman days. Hunt the flesh. Kill the flesh. Eat the flesh. That's the male sex all over.
  • Can't you eat ice cream out of a bowl like everyone else?!

Noah Dietrich

  • Everybody works for you, Howard.
  • You just placed the largest order for airplanes in the history of the goddamned planet, Howard!


Katharine: Howard's building a new aeroplane.
Ms. Hepburn: Luddie built a birdhouse once!


  • Some men dream the future. He built it.


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