STARRING Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor
WRITTEN BY Ronald Bass, Anna Hamilton Phelan
DIRECTED BY Mira Nair
For many biopics, the toughest part is getting the lead actor to truly look like the film’s subject. But all Hilary Swank needed to become aviator Amelia Earhart was the right haircut. ”She’s a dead ringer, really,” says director Mira Nair (The Namesake). ”So much so that we interweave real newsreels of Amelia in the movie. It’s uncanny.” Perhaps, but Swank doesn’t agree. ”It’s funny,” says the actress. ”When [Amelia] was brought to me, I actually thought, ‘Me?’ with triple question marks. Because I don’t see a resemblance. She was such an iconic image, and that’s all people really know.”
That, and the fact that Earhart disappeared over the Pacific in 1937 during her historic attempt to fly around the world. Nair frames the film around that captivating flight, then delves into Earhart’s precipitous rise as a style and feminist icon following her first transatlantic voyage, boosted by her business manager and eventual husband George Putnam (Richard Gere).
Nair stresses that Amelia is no mere history lesson. ”I have a 17-year-old,” she says, ”and I don’t want him to feel like it’s homework. I wanted to make it an adventure. All of the aerial action you see in the film is real.” To achieve greater verisimilitude, Swank actually took some vintage airplanes out for a spin. ”The planes [Earhart] flew were just a totally different beast than what we have now,” says the two-time Oscar winner. ”Flying a plane then was a workout. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for her.” So what was it like to pilot an airplane with an open cockpit? Says Swank, ”Loud and windy.”