- Ability over Appearance:
- Box Office Bomb: Budget, $110 million. Box office, $102,610,330 (domestic), $213,741,459 (worldwide). While regarded as one of the greatest films of 2004, controversy arose over producer Charles Evans Jr's involvement, which wasn't helped by him forcing himself into a producers' photo at the Producers Guild of America Awards. Evans hasn't really been involved with Hollywood since. This helped screenwriter John Logan's career out somewhat after he "helped" crash Star Trek: Nemesis along with two other movies, but it would still be a few years before he got back in the Hollywood swing of things.
- Creator Killer: Charles Evans Jr.'s antics during production and after crushed his Hollywood career.
- Dawson Casting: Gwen Stefani plays Jean Harlow, who was 19 at the time the film shows her (she never even lived to be 34, Gwen's age during filming).
- Deleted Role: Jane Lynch filmed scenes as Amelia Earhart that ended up deleted.
- Doing It for the Art: Martin Scorsese supplied $5000 of his own money when the film went overbudget.
- Dyeing for Your Art: Kate Beckinsale gained 20 pounds to play Ava Gardner.
- Fake American: Cate Blanchett (Australian) as Katharine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale (British) as Ava Gardner.
- Fake Australian: Jude Law, who is British, plays the Australian Errol Flynn (who himself tried to pass himself off as Irish).
- Fake Nationality: English Ian Holm as ambiguously Western European Professor Fritz...
- Method Acting: In addition to learning to play tennis and golf - which Katharine Hepburn loved - Cate Blanchett also started taking cold showers (something else the actress was known for).
- The Other Marty: Gwyneth Paltrow was cast as Ava Gardner, but dropped out at the last minute, and was replaced with Kate Beckinsale.
- Saved from Development Hell:
- Warren Beatty planned to direct and star in a Hughes biopic in the early 1970s. He co-wrote the script with Bo Goldman after a proposed collaboration with Paul Schrader fell through. Goldman wrote his own script, Melvin and Howard, which depicted Hughes' possible relationship with Melvin Dummar. Beatty's thoughts regularly returned to the project over the years, and in 1990 he approached Steven Spielberg to direct Goldman's script. Beatty's Hughes biopic was eventually released under the title Rules Dont Apply in 2016. Charles Evans, Jr. purchased the film rights of Howard Hughes: The Untold Story in 1993. Evans secured financing from New Regency Productions, but development stalled.
- Disney previously developed a Hughes biopic with Brian De Palma and Nicolas Cage between 1997 and 1998. Titled Mr. Hughes, the film would have starred Cage Acting for Two as Hughes and Clifford Irving. It was conceived when De Palma and Cage were working on Snake Eyes with David Koepp. Following the disappointing release of Snake Eyes in August 1998, Disney placed the film in turnaround.
- Universal Pictures joined the competition in March 1998 when it purchased the film rights to Empire: The Life, Legend and Madness of Howard Hughes, written by Donald Barlett and James Steele. The Hughes Brothers were going to direct Johnny Depp as Howard Hughes, based on a script by Terry Hayes, Universal canceled it when it decided it did not want to fast-track development to compete with Disney.
- In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, Milo Forman was in talks to direct a film about the early life of Hughes starring Edward Norton.
- In the early 2000s, Christopher Nolan was developing a film about Hughes based on Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters by Richard Hack. The film was shelved when Scorsese was on board to direct The Aviator. Nolan returned to his Howard Hughes project after completing The Dark Knight Rises. This time, Nolan used Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness by Michael Drosnin as the source of his film. Nolan wrote the script and the script follows the darker and final years of Hughes's life. Nolan, once again, shelved the project when Warren Beatty was developing his long-awaited Hughes film. It was reported that Nolan's Hughes film was to star Jim Carrey as the reclusive, elderly billionaire.
- Disney restarted development on a new biopic in June 1999, hiring Michael Mann to direct Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Howard Hughes, based on a script by John Logan. The studio put it in turnaround again following the disappointing box-office performance of Mann's critically acclaimed The Insider. New Line Cinema picked it up in turnaround almost immediately, with Mann planning to direct after finishing Ali. Mann was eventually replaced with Scorsese.
- Similarly Named Works: This film has no connection with the 1985 Christopher Reeve film also titled The Aviator.
- What Could Have Been:
- Although Cate Blanchett was always the first choice for Katharine Hepburn, there was worry about a schedule conflict with The Missing. Should she not have been available, Nicole Kidman was the second choice.
- Barry Pepper was to play Howard Hughes's chief engineer Glenn Odekirk. But a schedule conflict with Ripley Under Ground led to him dropping out. Matt Ross replaced him.
- Bob Hoskins was originally considered for Senator Owen Brewster.
Trivia / The Aviator