“I do know how to do this”: Martin Scorsese May Have Snatched Away Christopher Nolan’s Passion Movie But That Ultimately Helped Make Oppenheimer Possible

By the time Christopher Nolan was done writing the script, Martin Scorsese was already deep into The Aviator.

Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer
Credits: Wikimedia Commons / JJ Georges, Harald Krichel


  • Christopher Nolan initially had plans to make a Howard Hughes documentary, which was canned in favor of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator,
  • However, his experience working on the script for the canned biopic ended up benefiting the process of penning Oppenheimer.
  • Nolan explained why he still hasn't seen The Aviator.
Show More
Featured Video

While Oppenheimer was Christopher Nolan’s first biographical drama to hit the big screens, this wasn’t the Oscar-winner’s first time penning a script surrounding a real-life figure. Before changing the superhero landscape with The Dark Knight, the director had plans to make a biopic about the American aerospace engineer Howard Hughes, for which he even wrote a script.


But as the story goes, Nolan’s passion project never materialized as before the director could make his pitch, Martin Scorsese was already working on Hughes’ biopic, The Aviator. However, it wasn’t all in vain for Nolan, as his experience working on the script for his Howard Hughes biopic came in handy while penning Oppenheimer.

The Unmade Biopic Made Christopher Nolan’s Experience Penning Oppenheimer Easier

Martin Scorsese's The Aviator
A still from The Aviator | Warner Bros.

Speaking of the unmade biopic, Christopher Nolan deemed his script for the canned project the best he’d ever written. Moreover, instead of Leonardo DiCaprio, Nolan had Jim Carrey in mind for playing Hughes, stating Carrey was “born to play” the part. But despite losing the film to Martin Scorsese, Nolan’s experience crafting the script for the canned biopic made the process of penning the script for Oppenheimer much smoother.


Considering The Dark Knight director received a lot of insight on “how to view a person’s life in a thematic way,” it ended up contributing a lot to his script for the Oscar-winning biopic.

Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer
A still from Oppenheimer (image credit: Universal Pictures

Nolan detailed (via Variety):

I cracked the script to my satisfaction, and that gave me a lot of insight on how to distill a person’s life and how to view a person’s life in a thematic way, so that the film is more than the sum of its parts. So, in some ways, the script, yes, it took me a few months, but it was really a culmination of 20 years of thinking.

While it’s a shame his biopic never materialized, as it would’ve suited Nolan’s style, Scorsese too didn’t drop the ball with the biopic, which stands as a testament to his versatility as a filmmaker.


Christopher Nolan Is Yet to Watch The Aviator

Even though Martin Scorsese‘s The Aviator was revered by fans and critics and scored 11 Oscar nods, Christopher Nolan is yet to watch the biopic. But his decision to not watch the film doesn’t have to do with its quality, as the scrapping of his project took a heavy emotional toll on the director, which makes sense, as he poured his soul into the script.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator
A still from The Aviator | Warner Bros.

Nolan recalled:

It was very emotional to not get to make something I’d poured all that into.

Although it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see Nolan’s version of Hughes’ biopic, The Aviator remains one of the most unique films to come out from the duo of DiCaprio and Scorsese.


The Aviator is available to stream on Apple TV.


Written by Santanu Roy

Articles Published: 1608

Santanu Roy is a film enthusiast with a deep love for the medium of animation while also being obsessed with The Everly Brothers, Billy Joel, and The Platters. Having expertise in everything related to Batman, Santanu spends most of his time watching and learning films, with Martin Scorsese and Park Chan-wook being his personal favorites. Apart from pursuing a degree in animation, he also possesses a deep fondness for narrative-driven games and is currently a writer at Fandomwire with over 1500 articles.