After shooting The Dark Knight Rises, we’re told Christopher Nolan plans to return to reality — even if it’s one stranger than fiction. Insiders with knowledge of his plans tell Vulture exclusively that Nolan next wants to direct a long-shelved Howard Hughes biopic he’d abandoned when it became clear that Martin Scorsese would beat him to the screen with The Aviator in 2004.
But while Scorsese’s film is understood to have been heavily based on Charles Higham’s biography Howard Hughes: The Secret Life and centered largely on the early years of Hughes' life up to 1947, we hear Nolan’s movie is based on Michael Drosnin’s Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness (first published in 1985), and would focus on the freakier decades of Hughes remarkably secretive and OCD-addled life.
Drosnin is a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter who’s best known for writing the bestseller The Bible Code, but his Citizen Hughes leans extensively on some astonishing primary sourcing: Over three thousand pages of Hughes’s own handwritten memoranda, which leaked after the billionaire's office was burglarized in 1975.
As such, we’re told Nolan’s Hughes movie will covers many later events and quirks on which Scorsese’s movie punted: 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.
Our spies tell us Nolan wants to shoot his Hughes movie late in 2012, then release it in 2014 — by which time 10 years will have elapsed since Scorsese’s Aviator, a span Nolan seems to think sufficient enough for it not to invite immediate comparison.
No word on where Nolan’s Citizen Hughes will be set up — or if it will even be called that — but we can’t imagine that after two Batman movies and Inception at Warner Bros., it won’t be green-lighted in beautiful downtown Burbank.