13 Surprising Facts About The Aviator

Leonardo DiCaprio and Gwen Stefani in The Aviator (2004).
Leonardo DiCaprio and Gwen Stefani in The Aviator (2004).
Miramax Films

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 Hughes 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. Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan both 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. Nicole Kidman was Martin Scorsese's second choice to play Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.

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.

3. Cate Blanchett did her homework for The Aviator.

Miramax Films

At Scorsese's request, Blanchett watched all of Hepburn's first 15 movies. Blanchett also screened Hepburn'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."

4. Gwyneth Paltrow was originally signed to play Ava Gardner in The Aviator.

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

5. 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.

6. Screenwriter John Logan wrote 15 drafts of The Aviator over five years.

Miramax Films

Screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall) came up with an original script of 225 pages. 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's part and Logan reading all the others.

7. Leonardo DiCaprio learned to fly for The Aviator.

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.

8. In real life, 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.

9. The color palette in The Aviator changes as time progresses.

Miramax Films

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.

10. Model airplanes were used in The Aviator.

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.

11. John C. Reilly defied Martin Scorsese.

Miramax Films

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."

12. The Aviator went $500,000 over budget.

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

13. Jane Lynch played Amelia Earhart in The Aviator—but you probably don’t remember seeing her.

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

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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6 Too-Cool Facts About Henry Winkler for His 75th Birthday

Getty Images
Getty Images

Henry Winkler thumbs-upped his way into America’s hearts as the Fonz in Happy Days more than 40 years ago, and he hasn’t been out of the spotlight since—whether it’s playing himself in an Adam Sandler movie, a hospital administrator with a weird obsession with butterflies in Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, the world's worst lawyer in Arrested Development, a pantomiming Captain Hook on the London stage, or the world's most lovable acting coach to a contract killer in Barry

1. Henry Winkler made up a Shakespeare monologue to get into the Yale School of Drama.

After graduating from Emerson College, Winkler applied to Yale University’s drama program. In his audition, he had to do two scenes, a modern and a classic comedy. However, when he arrived at his audition, he forgot the Shakespeare monologue he had planned to recite. So he made something up on the spot. He was still selected for one of 25 spots in the program. 



In the fifth season of Happy Days, the Fonz grabbed a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark. The phrase “jumping the shark” would become pop culture shorthand for the desperate gimmicks employed by TV writers to keep viewers hooked into a show that’s running out of storylines. But Winkler’s water skiing adventure was partially inspired by his father, who begged his son to tell his co-workers about his past as a water ski instructor. When he did, the writers wrote his skills into the show. Winkler would later reference the moment in his role as lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development, hopping over a dead shark lying on a pier.  

3. Henry Winkler is an advocate for dyslexia awareness. 

Winkler struggled throughout high school due to undiagnosed dyslexia. “I didn't read a book until I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia,” he told The Guardian in 2014. He has co-written several chapter books for kids featuring Hank Zipper, a character who has dyslexia. In 2015, a Hank Zipper book is printed in Dyslexie, a special font designed to be easier for kids with dyslexia to read. 

4. Henry Winkler didn't get to ride Fonzie's motorcycle.

On one of his first days on the set of Happy Days, producers told Winkler that he just had to ride the Fonz’s motorcycle a few feet. Because of his dyslexia, he couldn’t figure out the vehicle’s controls, he told an interviewer with the Archive of American Television. “I gunned it and rammed into the sound truck, nearly killed the director of photography, put the bike down, and slid under the truck,” he recalled. For the next 10 years, whenever he appeared on the motorcycle, the bike was actually sitting on top of a wheeled platform. 

5. Henry Winkler has performed with MGMT. 

In addition to his roles on BarryArrested Development, Royal Pains, Parks and Recreation, and more, Winkler has popped up in a few unexpected places in recent years. He appeared for a brief second in the music video for MGMT’s “Your Life Is a Lie” in 2013. He later showed up at a Los Angeles music festival to play the cowbell with the band, too.

6. Henry Winkler won his first Emmy at the age of 72.

The seventh time was a charm for Henry Winkler. In 2018, at the age of 72—though just shy of his 73rd birthday—Winkler won an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as acting teacher Gene Cousineau on Barry. It was the seventh time Winkler had been nominated for an Emmy. His first nomination came in 1976 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Happy Days (he earned an Emmy nod in the same category for Happy Days in 1977 and 1978 as well.

This story has been updated for 2020.