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Martin Scorsese   (Director - 'The Aviator') Martin Scorsese (Director - 'The Aviator')
'Still Flying High'

Arguably the finest living director never to have won an Oscar for his craft, 62-year-old Martin Scorsese may well get one for 'The Aviator' which reunites him with 'Gangs of New York' star Leonardo DiCaprio. Since his breakthrough with 'Mean Streets' in 1973 the filmmaker has mixed and matched the genres scoring particular successes with 'Taxi Driver,' 'Raging Bull,' 'The Last Temptation of Christ,' 'GoodFellas' and 'The Age of Innocence'.

Did you know much about Howard Hughes before embarking on 'The Aviator'? "I was mainly aware of his name in connection with RKO Radio Pictures. My father was an avid moviegoer, a working class guy in the garment district in the 20s and 30s, and he loved Hell's Angels and Scarface. So I had a sense of Howard Hughes as a filmmaker. And I knew about him as this troubled older person. When I got to Hollywood in the early 70s people - Warren Beatty, Steve Spielberg, Brian De Palma - were always talking about doing a Howard Hughes story."

You've compared the life of Hughes to one of the Greek myths, haven't you? "He's like the richest king who gets everything he wants but ultimately his family has a curse from the Gods. He had this disorder in his genes [obsessive-compulsive disorder]. It wasn't his fault, it apparently comes from the mother's side of the family but no-one went in and fooled round with their DNA; it just happened. It reminds me very much of the curse of the ancient world in a way. Like the Minotaur in the labyrinth, the idea was that Icarus's father Daedalus built the labyrinth to keep the Minotaur in the centre under lock and key. Basically throughout his whole life Howard Hughes tries to escape the labyrinth, but he is the Minotaur, he is his own monster."

With Danny Huston in your cast did you find yourself quizzing him for stories about his Dad, John Huston? "Oh yeah, we talked. I still have to show him some of his father's films that he hasn't seen. I want to show him We Were Strangers and a number of others. And also one of his grandfather's films, called Law and Order, because I'm a great fan of Walter Huston. It's a Universal picture from 1931 or so, and it's Walter Huston and Harry Carey and they're playing the Earp Brothers. I'm going to screen that for him."

So you were filling in the gaps in his knowledge then? "I'm trying to, yeah."

Do you come away from The Aviator feeling sympathy or distaste for Howard Hughes the man? "For me there was certainly sympathy for him. I really didn't know that much about the early Howard Hughes, that was one of the reasons I did the film. I think to a certain extent it's a celebration of the man and what he was capable of. The way [screenwriter] John Logan wrote Howard Hughes in his prime - the visionary obsessed with speed - I can understand that. And his drive to make a movie and get it exactly right. I understood that."

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