Christopher Nolan Refuses To Watch One Martin Scorsese Classic For A Very Personal Reason

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

christopher nolan

Film fans will be interested that renowned director Christopher Nolan, whose recently premiered film Oppenheimer documented the life and times of the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, reserves one Martin Scorsese film he refuses to watch. According to World of Reel, the film Christopher Nola avoids is The Aviator—the biopic of Howard Hughes

Why won’t one acclaimed filmmaker watch the work of another? According to his interview in the New York Times, Nolan detailed an unmade project about the very same Howard Hughes, a screenplay near and dear to his heart yet ultimately shelved due to Scorsese’s concurrent work on the same subject. 

Christopher Nolan Was Working On A Film About Howard Hughes Starring Jim Carrey

Nolan’s unmade film dates back to the early 2000s. Fans will recall that, around this time, the director labored over The Dark Knight; his career was gaining significant momentum. Moreover, few know that Nolan had spent the better part of the preceding two decades conceptualizing a biopic of Howard Hughes, a film slated to star Jim Carrey. Unfortunately for Christopher Nolan, as Scorsese’s The Aviator began production and would go on to earn critical acclaim—including 11 Oscar nominations—Nolan had to make the difficult decision to distance himself from the project. 

Nolan Had No Choice But To Abandon The Project

christopher nolan

In conversation with Variety, Nolan unveiled the painful emotional process of abandoning the script, a screenplay drawing from countless hours of dedication and consideration. The experience was so emotionally taxing it led to Christopher Nolan’s complete avoidance of The Aviator. While this policy might seem a tad dramatic, it underscores the intensely personal connection filmmakers share with their projects as well as the professional respect between the two titans of cinema. 

The Difference Between The Stories

leonardo dicaprio

It is interesting to note the distinct differences between the would-be film and Scorsese’s ultimate vision manifested in The Aviator.

The latter’s narrative centered around Hughes’s battle with extreme OCD and mental illness, marinating in the intimate nuances of his personal life. While Nolan has implied his screenplay would instead emphasize historical import of Hughes’s work, the passage of time, and thematic grandeur, all amounting to something akin to his latest film, Oppenheimer

Will We Ever See Nolan’s Version Of The Aviator?

The setback notwithstanding, Christopher Nolan’s prospective Hughes biopic, given its implicitly different direction from Scorsese’s The Aviator, might still see the light of day. The film industry is indeed enormous in its appetite for diverse storytelling and could perhaps accommodate another perspective on Hughes’s fascinating life. Nolan’s incomparable vision, combined with his cinematic acumen, would contribute a must-see take on the story of the troubled billionaire. 

Will Christopher Nolan Ever Watch Martin Scorsese’s Version?

leonardo dicaprio

An American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and philanthropist, Howard Hughes was famed for both his financial successes and eccentric—if not reclusive—lifestyle. As a pilot, Hughes set many world air-speed records, and his company, Hughes Aircraft, constructed some of the most advanced planes of its time, including the famous H-4 Hercules, otherwise known as the “Spruce Goose.”  

Ultimately, Christopher Nolan’s policy of not watching Scorsese’s The Aviator amounts to more than a mere preference. Instead, it comprises a testament to the emotional and intricate adventure of filmmaking, reminding the audience that, behind every film lies a personal story—one occasionally as compelling as that of the film itself.