He piloted Trans World Airlines, he built the Spruce Goose, he wore Kleenex-box shoes. Howard Hughes was one of the true 20th-century originals -- a risk-taker who wanted to own the skies and nearly killed himself trying to do it. Now this film and aviation pioneer is the subject of a Martin Scorsese flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio (above). The Aviator, which opened December 17, portrays Hughes's wild entrepreneurial ride.

Hughes answered to no one, says John Logan, who spent five years crafting the script for The Aviator. Hughes gambled on cutting-edge projects. He did some of the flying stunts for Hell's Angels, the $3.9 million film he produced and directed. And after founding Hughes Aircraft, he set the around-the-world speed record. When studying Hughes's life, Logan says, he realized that the man's true love was aviation and the company he fought to build, TWA. The movie's story line follows TWA's battles with Pan Am, the government, and ultimately, creditors. "He harkens back to when American entrepreneurs improved the quality of life," says Logan. "Howard Hughes changed the face of America."

For more on Howard Hughes and to read what entrepreneurs think of the film, go to www.inc.com/keyword/aviator.

Published on: Jan 1, 2005