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Because Scorsese has never liked flying, Di Caprio ripped off the title page before presenting him with the script.
He need not have worried as Scorsese was riveted by Hughes's adventures and the story of greed, corruption and madness that surrounded them. The Aviator begins shortly after Hughes's arrival in Hollywood to film Hell's Angels, which, at a cost of million, was at the time by far the most expensive film ever made.
A scene in the film depicts him stark naked in his screening room, unable to face anybody and conducting a deranged experiment with bottles of his own urine."I think being obsessive-compulsive tied into his women, too," said Di Caprio.
Supporting roles in television series followed, but his first film role in Critters 3 gave little hint of his potential.
Both men's romantic dalliances were regular fodder for the gossip columns, although the similarity seems lost on Di Caprio, who marvels at the thought of Hughes in his Hollywood heyday."Imagine being a billionaire at that time and being that good-looking and being a movie producer and a shy and private guy and so charming," he says. Hughes's compulsions eventually fuelled his descent into madness in later years while Di Caprio has a firm control of his mild symptoms, and used them to good effect while portraying Hughes.
Not yet a recognised condition when Hughes was a sufferer, it increasingly took over his life, causing him to repeat phrases over and over, continually wash his hands and break down at the sight of a spot on another man's suit.
For Di Caprio, a thoughtful, introspective man, being the focus of attention whenever he ventures out is particularly irksome, although he accepts that there is little he can do about it."The paparazzi are horrible people for most of us and I wish they wouldn't follow me around and make my life miserable, but when I start talking about how we should fight them and how they are destroying everything, I feel such a shallow jerk because there are so many more important things in the world that people should be focusing on, not whether some rich celebrity is being photographed by paparazzi," he says.
The attention and fan fever are likely to heighten with the release of The Aviator, Martin Scorsese's epic film about Howard Hughes.
Di Caprio is being widely tipped for an Oscar nomination for his performance as Hughes, the eccentric tycoon who became a millionaire oilman, a successful filmmaker, a record-setting pilot, an aircraft designer and the founder of an international airline, before ending his life as an insane recluse, terrified of germs and the outside world.