In addition to the book, what other research did you do?
The genesis, like I said, was seven, eight years ago, reading the book, bringing it to Michael Mann, and finally John Logan developing it with Michael, and then the script landing on my lap. And then the real research began after we committed to the movie, Marty and I. It was a year of preparation. It was not only those marathon sessions with John Logan and Scorsese, but I got to meet a couple of people who actually worked with Howard, who knew Howard. Jane Russell, I drove up north to spend a day with her and talk about Howard. And Terry Moore, his ex-wife, she provided a lot of information about him.
When you read a script and it says in the script, He has obsessive compulsive disorder, and then you read two pages of a man repeating the same line over and over again Not that its easy for a writer to write that because he has his own thought process, but when youre an actor and reading that you say, How in the hell am I gonna say this? What is the driving force behind repeating something 20 times in a row and why the hell is he doing it? So that brought me to work with Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz of UCLA, who is the leading physician on obsessive compulsive disorder and treating it in a non-medicated fashion. He really explained to me what OCD is and the brain mechanism that goes into it and the sort of faulty gear shift, the sticky gear shift that happens when your mind obsesses on one thing and you dont listen to the other part of your brain that tells you youre being ridiculous. So, I worked a lot with him and a patient of his. I spent a few days with him, living around him and talking to him and really trying to find out why he had to repeat or do things obsessively. Then, reading every possible book I could on him and his life.
Did Hughes date so many beautiful, famous women with a perception of his place in history or of his mythic status as a celebrity? And do you think about your place in history when you date somebody who is equally famous?
(Smiling) No. Those arent my intentions going into a relationship. But, with Howard, its an interesting dynamic because I honestly feel that as much as he had love and adoration for these women and genuinely cared for them, he kind of looked at them like airplanes. You know what I mean? He was a technical genius and obsessed with finding the new, faster, bigger airplane (laughs) and that was simultaneous with women. He was constantly finding the new, hotter female to go out with.
It all related back to him being orphaned at a very young age and sort of having this empty hole in his soul that, I think, he was always trying to fill with new, more exciting things in his life. He ended up, obviously, not a very happy person. I dont know if he was thinking about whether historically he was going to become a legend. Im sure he had that sort of cat and mouse things going on in his mind where he wanted to be famous but it was more like, Look at me! Look at me! No, dont look at me!
What about the truth versus the legend in this movie?
Like I said, there is so much information. Theres the whole later years of Howards life, which is a film in its own right anyway. But the reason this film was made, and I think the first true distinctive film on Howard Hughes was possible because of focusing on his younger years and being able to show not only the growing up of this man in this time period, but our country, the state of our country, and what kind of people were around in the beginning of early Hollywood and the attitudes of people.
Where do you feel the director, and you as an actor, need to draw the line between
historical accuracy and when can you go over that line into the realm of
storytelling and fantasy?
When it serves the film and as long, to me, as the essence of what youre trying to portray is the intention of the character. There are a couple of things in this movie that werent exactly what really happened. And I know theres all those detectives out there that love to look for mistakes or things that werent exactly the real deal. But, for example, Howard Hughes never did the thing with buying the photos of Katharine Hepburn, of her and Spencer Tracy. Instead the intention was the same: he bought her The Philadelphia Story, which she ended up doing on stage, and inevitably got her an Academy Award after they broke up. The intention was still there. He still loved her, he still cared about her as a person, and still did something like that for her.
You know, I think as long as you are carried on that ride of the film and youre engaged in the character and its something that isnt way too far out of the field of what really happened - and the intention is still there - I think thats the artists right.