Weinstein, Scorsese propel 'Aviator'

Marty and Harvey together again.

Miramax is teaming with Warner Bros. and IEG to finance the $100 million-plus budget of “The Aviator.” The film, about the early life of Howard Hughes, will be the next pic for both Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese. Shooting will begin May 12 in Los Angeles for likely release in fall 2004.

Deal reps a reteaming of Scorsese and Miramax co-topper Harvey Weinstein, refuting the notion that their conflict over “Gangs of New York” was terminal.

Also back for an encore is IEG topper Graham King. Weinstein stepped up along with WB topper Alan Horn to work out a financing scenario in which IEG will put up about 60% of the budget and control foreign turf. Warners and Miramax have a capped budget commitment of about 40%, with WB distributing domestically and Miramax handling marketing.

DreamWorks had been the other bidder for the film, but Miramax and Warners have a history with Scorsese, with WB making “Mean Streets,” “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” “After Hours” and “Goodfellas.” The studio also had an option with the director.

Forward Pass partners Michael Mann and Sandy Climan will produce “The Aviator.” Charles Evans Jr. will be a producer with IEG’s King and DiCaprio; Scorsese may take exec producer credit. Miramax will supervise production with IEG, and Weinstein will bring on execs Colin Vaines and Rick Schwartz, who got co-executive producer credit on “Gangs.”

Even though Scorsese agreed last January to direct “The Aviator,” financing was left up in the air until Scorsese finished “Gangs.” The WB/Miramax bid emerged last week, and talks accelerated after a glitzy Gotham premiere on Monday.

Scorsese has been sweet on John Logan’s “Hughes” script since Mann asked him to read it in January. Mann expected to direct it himself with DiCaprio starring but wanted a biopic break after directing “Ali” and “The Insider.”

Mann, who owned the script, decided to step aside. The first director he showed it to was Scorsese.

The script begins as a young Hughes directs one of Scorsese’s favorite films, “Hell’s Angels.” Hughes was so obsessed with perfection in the aerial sequences that he waits forever for perfect conditions, right down to cloud formations. His obsessions with aviation, moviemaking and women fascinated Scorsese.

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“The Aviator” ends in 1946, when Hughes was still a dashing young man and romancing actresses like Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn, romances that will be depicted in the film.

A Castle Rock-based rival Hughes pic to be written and directed by Chris Nolan for Jim Carrey will cover the industrialist’s rise and descent to reclusive germophobe. That film’s based on the Richard Hack’s New Millennium book “Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters,” and will be produced by Carrey, Nolan and Scott Steindorff, with Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin exec producing.

DiCaprio’s repped by the Firm’s Rick Yorn and attorney Steve Warren, with Yorn repping Scorsese as well.

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