Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are both closely enough based on their model, Howard Hughes, that the similarity is immediately noticeable with just a little knowledge of the life of the filmmaker, aviator, philanthropist and world’s once-richest-man.
Tony Stark, whose father was even named Howard, is “an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, and a ladies’ man,” exactly the words Stan Lee used to describe Howard Hughes when explaining in Game Informer Magazine that both Stark’s looks and personality were based on Hughes’s.
Bruce Wayne’s resemblance to Hughes is perhaps not so explicitly stated, but is nonetheless immediately noticeable, especially in the newest movie in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. He shares the inherited fortune, young (though younger than Hughes or Stark) loss of his parents, and billionaire playboy lifestyle of Hughes and Stark. He was also created in 1939, a year after Hughes circumnavigated the globe, beating the world record by four days. Furthermore, Bruce Wayne spends eight years as a recluse in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, though this is less emphasized in the comic books, from what I can tell.
There’s a reason for this, of course. Howard Hughes was one of the biggest, most colorful, most intriguing figures of the 20th century. Richest man in the world, multi-talented, bold, handsome, and on the other hand reclusive and eccentric… His whole life seemed to be a series of acts of daring romanticism with mental illness providing a vent for the fear which would prevent most people from accomplishing what he did, even if they had the intellect and talent. So, in the theme of this blog, and its first real post, here’s my favorite Howard Hughes story (I think), short, but great:
In the making of Hell’s Angels (the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release), Howard Hughes hired more than 70 pilots. Now this was a movie about World War One flying done with World War One era flying equipment. No technological buffer making the flying safer, or allowing for sequences which weren’t actually performed in real life. Three of the pilots died during shooting the film, and Hughes himself crashed on his first flight for the movie, breaking several bones. There was, however, one flying shot which Hughes wanted, and which all of the stunt pilots refused to attempt, because it was too dangerous. So Hughes did the flying himself, and he crashed … but he got the shot.
I’ve watched the movie a few times wondering which stunt that was, and I’m pretty sure I can tell. It’s virtually the last flying shot in the movie, the near vertical downward spiral of the German plane. It looks impossible to overcome, and then there’s a flash to pilots’ faces before the final crash shot.