Scorsese’s biopic about eccentric aviation pioneer Howard Hughes cost $110 million, making it the director’s highest priced undertaking, topping his $100 million budget on “Gangs of New York.”
Still, a film’s budget and the resources available to a director are seldom the same. Upfront star salaries and special production requirements can account for a lot.
And just like “Gangs,” Scorsese didn’t have a blank check from a studio — he had very-much-extended Initial Entertainment Group money man Graham King backing him, and on the set for a good portion of the 91-day shooting sked.
“(King) and I were constantly keeping our hand on the tiller, trying to keep the picture afloat so that it wouldn’t go too far over,” Scorsese says. “But we were lucky, it came in right on schedule.”
Scorsese says careful planning was key. Before shooting began, he spent several weeks working with screenwriter John Logan to precisely sketch out each scene.
“Marty gave me the comfort I needed to greenlight another movie of this size,” King says. “This film had so much prep. If you don’t prep a movie properly, you’re headed for disaster.”
Scorsese acknowledges that sky-high budgets — no matter how efficient the production is or how much winds up on screen — entail risks.
“I think you could lose everything in the future if you take too big a gamble,” he says. “I took a gamble on the past two pictures. ‘Gangs of New York’ seemed to do all right financially and, hopefully, there’s a good chance for ‘Aviator.’ ”
Before receiving its 11 Oscar noms last week — including one for director — “The Aviator” had taken in $53 million at the domestic box office.