The giant aircraft hangar at Playa Vista where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose in the 1940s won't even make a cameo in the Hughes bio-epic "The Aviator" starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett.
The seven-story landmark -- which became eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 -- was passed over for filming at a faux site in Canada.
"It's just a shame to see all these productions going to Canada and overseas," says Zaher Cassim, stage manager and agent for Universal Locations, operators of the Playa Vista soundstages. A production designer for "The Aviator," directed by Martin Scorsese, came and took pictures of the hangar and other buildings, Cassim says, but decided against using the site.
A statement released by the film's producers, Initial Entertainment Group, defends the Canadian shoot: "The production did visit the Howard Hughes hangar in Playa Vista, but as the space was unavailable to us we had to find an alternative location. We ultimately shot the hangar in Montreal, where many of production's sets were re-created and filmed."
Cassim hoped to accommodate the producers because the historic site was a favorite haunt of Hughes. "It's the largest wooden building in the world, 75 feet high and 742 feet long by 102 feet wide. It's the biggest stage in Los Angeles. We have several hangars, and all the buildings around them are being used for production offices." Numerous films have been shot at the site, including "Independence Day," "Nixon" and "Apollo 13," but Cassim acknowledges that filmmakers must go the cheapest route. "That's the business. We've gotten so blase with people going overseas. I'm kind of disappointed."
A Daily Variety article in June touted "The Aviator" as one of biggest independent movies ever with a budget of $115 million and claimed that the producers would use four soundstages at the Technoparc in Montreal's Mel's Cite du Cinema and spend an estimated $40 million in Canada.
-- Michael T. Jarvis