Visionary. Lover. Dreamer. Fighter. Legend. Icon. AMELIA.
An extraordinary life of adventure, celebrity and continuing mystery comes to light in AMELIA, a vast, fascinating account of legendary aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank). After becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia was thrust into a new role as America's sweetheart - the legendary "goddess of light," known for her bold, larger-than-life charisma. Yet, even with her global fame solidified, her belief in flirting with danger and standing up as her own, outspoken woman never changed. She was an inspiration to people everywhere, from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Cherry Jones) to the men closest to her heart: her husband, promoter and publishing magnate George P. Putnam (Golden Globe® winner Richard Gere), and her long time friend and lover, pilot Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor). In the summer of 1937, Amelia set off on her most daunting mission yet: a solo flight around the world that she and George both anxiously foresaw as destined, whatever the outcome, to become one of the most talked-about journeys in history. AMELIA is directed by Mira Nair (THE NAMESAKE, VANITY FAIR, MONSOON WEDDING) and written by Academy Award winner Ron Bass (RAIN MAN) and Anna Hamilton Phelan.
"There's more to life than being a passenger." -- Amelia
From award-winning director Mira Nair and starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank in the title role, comes the true story of the woman who won the hearts of the nation with her daring dreams of flight. Celebrated as the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart led a bold and uncompromising life as a woman ahead of her time, an adventurer who refused to see limits, and a symbol of American spirit. AMELIA chronicles her skyrocketing rise to fame; the record-shattering flights that forged her image as "Lady Lindy"; a love life complicated by her devotion to flight and freedom; and a legacy of courage, social advocacy, and independence.
"AMELIA is a love story and an action-adventure for the whole family, about a young woman who broke the boundaries and gave a lot to many different people," says Nair. "I wanted the film to be a living, pulsating portrait of this woman who dared to dream of things that no one had ever done before. Amelia lived life as fully as possible and didn't put a lid on her emotions or her ambitions. She left behind a legend that I hope will continue to fuel a passion in people to accept no limits."
The most vivid and adventuresome period in Earhart's life - from her sudden exposure to global fame in 1928 to her shocking disappearance mid-flight less than ten years later - comes alive on the screen thanks largely to the dogged passion of Avalon Pictures CEO (and the pioneering co-founder of the technology company, Gateway, Inc.) Ted Waitt. An aviation and exploration aficionado in his own right, Waitt had long been fascinated by Amelia's story.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated with Amelia's disappearance. As I began reading about her, I became even more fascinated with her life than her disappearance," explains Waitt. "Hers is an incredible story of courage and she was a real pioneer for women as well as aviation."
He continues: "Everyone today knows about Amelia's disappearance, but very few people understand her life. I thought her tale could be an inspiration, as well as very entertaining. She still ranks as one of the 10 most famous Americans of all time, and people are naturally interested in her - yet not many know her real story."
Avalon purchased two seminal biographies of Earhart: Susan Butler's East To The Dawn, which explores little-known aspects of Earhart's life, including her friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and became the first book to document a secret affair with the aviator and businessman Gene Vidal; and Mary Lovell's The Sound of Wings, which focuses on Amelia's intricate relationship with her publicist husband and the intense promotional machinery that surrounded her. "I read all the biographies of Amelia -- and Sue Butler's was incredibly well researched and well written. Mary Lovell's book was great as well," comments Waitt.
Waitt also brought in Elgen M. Long, co-author with Marie K. Long of Amelia Earhart: Mystery Solved, as a consultant. Long is an expert on the flight logs that reveal, moment by moment, what happened on Amelia's final flight from New Guinea en route to Howland Island - as what Long calls "multiple failures of navigation and communication" put her plane in insurmountable peril.
Using these heavily-researched sources as the backbone of their story, two award-winning writers -- Academy Award nominee Anna Hamilton Phelan (GORILLAS IN THE MIST) and Academy Award winner Ron Bass (RAIN MAN) - were brought in to forge a screenplay that hinges on authentic, documented history, yet soars beyond the facts to get to the heart of the woman beating. After an intensive examination of her life and times, Phelan and Bass emerged with a portrait of an Amelia so in love with what she saw and felt in the sky that it influenced her every move on earth. Compressing ten years into a couple of hours, Phelan and Bass reveal the many faces of Amelia - businesswoman, daredevil, fashion icon, promoter of women's rights, wife, lover, die-hard individualist - but most of all as a woman whose palpable humanity is just as moving as her record-setting feats.
What especially struck Mira Nair in reading the screenplay was the idea that Amelia was, in many ways, America's first true modern celebrity. She was not merely famous but so internationally idolized that her very name and image became a money-making machine. This fame granted her influence that she never imagined and, ultimately, she learned to use it to advance both women's rights and the age of aviation.
"No matter how you come at it, Amelia's story is a fascinating tale of mystery and tragedy," says Nair. "But what intrigued me about the screenplay for AMELIA is seeing her as the first real American icon that also became a brand name. Here was a woman who loved just one thing - flying - but because that was so revolutionary in her time, she came to stand for all kinds of other things including women's rights and felt a responsibility to be something more to people. Amelia tried to reconcile what she needed to do for money and society against what she felt she had to do to be herself. That's a game that modern women are still playing."
The director of such culturally and emotionally rich films as SALAAM BOMBAY!, MONSOON WEDDING, VANITY FAIR and THE NAMESAKE, Nair was born in India and lived in Africa before building her distinctive Hollywood career as one of a handful of woman directors at the forefront of cinema today.
Nair fell in love with the forward-thinking American pilot and her fearless vision of life as she read the AMELIA screenplay. Although Nair grew up in an utterly different time and place, she instantly related to Amelia's strength, optimism and hunger to get things done -- on a deeply personal level. "I was born in a small town in India," the director notes, "and Amelia was from a small-town in Kansas. I felt a great sense of affinity for her dreams to experience the bigger world around her. Those were my dreams, too."
Nair liked that the script's portrait was honest, exposing Amelia's human flaws along with her zeal and bravery. She continues: "The way Amelia trained herself to overcome fear and to go after the impossible is a lesson that I think we all aspire to. And yet I was drawn to a portrait of her that went beyond the iconic, that looks at her quirkiness, her need for love, her capacity to make mistakes and even to be so brave as to be reckless."
The screenplay spurred Nair to dive into her own research, screening hours of newsreels and documentaries, reading Amelia's diaries and documentation of her life collected over the years. "The more I learned about her, the more I was struck by the kind of sweet humility Amelia maintained through it all," she says. "I think humility and passion make such a lovely combination and is so rarely seen. That really interested me as a filmmaker."
Finally, Nair was attracted, like Amelia herself, to exploring the lure of flight in the thrilling early days of aviation - when human beings first began to attain a vast freedom over the landscape that only birds previously had known. "I saw in Amelia's tale someone who is ecstatic in the sky, but also very earth bound," comments Nair. "She loved nature, and believed in its power, so it's especially moving that, ultimately, it was the ocean or the skies that swallowed her."
The screenplay also introduced Nair to the two dashing, fascinating men who grew closest to Amelia: her savvy business partner and eventual husband, George Putnam; and the accomplished pilot and pioneer of the American airline industry, Gene Vidal.
Nair found herself compelled by both men. "George was the first person in this country to create what is now known as public relations. He was also an adventurer in his own right, but he knew he didn't have what it takes to be an Amelia Earhart or Charles Lindbergh, so he threw his support behind Amelia in his own way, financing her trips with sponsorships and publicity events. Yes, it was Putnam who packaged Amelia, but he was also the one who really allowed her to explore her passion by finding a way to make money out of it," she notes.
"Gene was also a huge force in Amelia's life because they were both very much the public faces of American aviation," Nair continues. "I think they were deeply attracted to each other, but Gene was the one person who told Amelia the blunt truth, who told her that her adventures were getting reckless, and I think she felt that hampered her dreams. There was both love and conflict driving the three of them."
"My journey through AMELIA amassed an unforgettable history rich with detail- from newsreel footage, to artifacts to biographies and first-person accounts. Amelia's life spanned decades of love, loss, heartbreak, and success," said Nair. "Throughout the making of this film, I had the privilege to become acquainted with not only Amelia's history in the skies, but also her history on the ground - with characters like Amy Guest and Dorothy Putnam and Mabel Boll - and others surrounding her close-knit group. Despite shooting the world around Amelia, I had to make choices that sharpened the journey of this utterly modern woman as she lived the seesaw between the ecstasy she felt in the sky and the responsibility she assumed towards the earth. Ultimately, my film began to soar as a study of one woman's 'ecstasy of the sky'. I hope AMELIA sheds new light on this fascinating individual and encourages audiences to further discover the woman, the history, and the individuals who made that history. Ms. Earhart certainly gave me the key to the skies."
Nair jumped into production with a team that included Ted Waitt as well as Avalon Pictures President Kevin Hyman; and Nair's long-time, trusted producing partner Lydia Dean Pilcher. "We had a deeply creative team," says Nair, "who tapped into what Amelia means to so many Americans."
AMELIA'S SPIRIT: HILARY SWANK
Having garnered two Academy Awards for transformative roles in BOYS DON'T CRY and MILLION DOLLAR BABY, Swank is no stranger at going to great depths for her roles. But she also possessed something more than just the technical skills and physical attributes to play Earhart. Read more
The whole world fell in love with Amelia Earhart, but her relationships with two men in particular would help to further her career and drive her fame. The first was the man who helped to forge her public image and would become her husband: George Palmer Putnam, and the pilot Gene Vidal, with whom she would found Northeastern Airlines. Read more
AMELIA'S PLANE: THE ELECTRA
One of the main characters in AMELIA is made of metal not flesh, but nevertheless was one of the great loves of Amelia Earhart's life. This was her famed, twin-engine, silver-and-orange Lockheed L-10 Electra airplane, in which she would ultimately disappear. Read more
AMELIAS' WORLD: THE DESIGN
When it came to the look of AMELIA, Mira Nair was most inspired by the things in life that inspired Earhart herself - vibrant style, the spirit of advnture, and most of all, the call of nature's wide open spaces. Read more
July 24, 1897 - Amelia Mary Earhart is born in Atchison, Kansas. Her father is a lawyer and inventor, but also an alcoholic. Her mother is the first woman to summit Pike's Peak in Colorado. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
MIRA NAIR (Director) is the rare, prolific filmmaker who fluidly moves between Hollywood and independent cinema. After several years of making documentary films, Mira Nair made a stunning entry on to the world stage with her first feature, SALAAM BOMBAY! (1988). The film received more than 25 international awards, including an Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Film, BAFTA, and the Camera D'Or (for best first feature) and Prix du Publique (for most popular entry) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988.
In the following decade, Nair directed four features: MISSISSIPPI MASALA (1991), THE PEREZ FAMILY (1995), KAMA SUTRA: A TALE of LOVE (1996), and MY OWN COUNTRY (1998). In 2001, Nair's MONSOON WEDDING won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, becoming one of the highest grossing foreign films of all time.
In 2002, Nair directed "Hysterical Blindness" for HBO which gave the channel its highest original film ratings ever, winning the Golden Globe for star Uma Thurman, and 3 Emmy Awards for Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara and design. In 2004, Nair directed Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp in Focus Features stunning adaptation of Thackeray's VANITY FAIR. A year later, Nair's adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's bestselling novel THE NAMESAKE became another critical and commercial success for the director.
A long time activist, Nair divides her energies between filmmaking and her two successful non-profit organizations. In 1988 she used the profits of SALAAM BOMBAY! to create the Salaam Baalak Trust which has directly impacted government policy on street children in India. 20 years later, the trust's 25 centers provide a safe and nurturing environment for 5000 street children annually. In 2005 Nair founded Maisha, a filmmakers' training program based in East Africa. In its 5 years of operation, Maisha has trained hundreds of students from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in screenwriting, directing, producing, acting, sound design, editing, and cinematography.
Equally committed to the short film form, Nair has directed six films, all of which are included on the Criterion Collection's forthcoming compilation of her work. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Mira joined a group of eleven renowned filmmakers; her film is a retelling of a true story of a mother's search for her son who did not return home on that fateful day. In 2007 Nair's New York based production company, Mirabai Films, produced AIDS JAAGO, a series of 4 short films made by India's cutting-edge directors and stars. The series, designed to help de-stigmatize AIDS in India, has been seen by over 2 million viewers worldwide. Nair's own short film for the series, called MIGRATION, deals with AIDS as the class leveler in society by following its transmission through interweaving stories linking rural and urban India. Nair also directed a segment of the feature film '8' as one of eight directors each creating a short film to address a different Millennium Development Goal. Her film, "How Can It Be" deals with gender equality. "Kosher Vegetarian", Mira's segment of the upcoming feature film NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU, stars Natalie Portman and Irrfan Khan.
After the release of AMELIA, Ms. Nair will return to the theatre from where she started, directing a spectacular musical on Broadway based on her beloved film, MONSOON WEDDING. Her forthcoming feature will be an adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's bestselling novel, THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, to be filmed in New York, Pakistan and Chile in 2010.
Mira Nair was born in India and educated at both Delhi University and Harvard. She currently lives in New York City and Kampala, Uganda with her husband and son.
RON BASS (Screenplay, Executive Producer) is an Academy Award winning screenwriter known for his ability to "crack" almost any story and expose the humanity and heart within.
The Los Angeles-born Bass began writing at age six while bedridden with a childhood illness, but initially decided on a more practical career after a college English teacher looked at his fledgling novel Voleur and informed him it wouldn't get published. He graduated from Harvard Law School and began a successful career in entertainment law, rising to the level of partner, but the desire to write did not go away. He returned to Voleur, working on it in the mornings before attending to his practice, and saw it published as The Perfect Thief in 1978. When producer Jonathan Sanger optioned his third novel, The Emerald Illusion, Bass co-scripted the film adaptation, CODE NAME: EMERALD, starring Max von Sydow and Ed Harris.
Bass soon abandoned his legal career and penned scripts for two leading filmmakers, writing Bob Rafelson's BLACK WIDOW and Francis Ford Coppola's GARDEN OF STONE. He next garnered international critical acclaim, as well as blockbuster success, with the surprising and moving drama of a young man's journey with his autistic brother in Barry Levinson's RAIN MAN, for which he shared the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Barry Morrow.
He followed this with a series of films featuring strong women characters, including the hit Julia Roberts thriller SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY; his adaptation of Amy Tan's complex and beloved novel THE JOY LUCK CLUB (co-written with Tan); WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN (co-written with now-Senator Al Franken), starring Meg Ryan as an alcoholic; DANGEROUS MINDS with Michelle Pfeiffer; and WAITING TO EXHALE, which he adapted with novelist and fellow executive producer Terry McMillan.
Bass scored another hit with MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING, which he also produced, and earned critical raves for its fresh twist on the screwball comedy. He then adapted Richard Matheson's novel WHAT DREAMS MAY COME for director Vincent Ward and star Robin Williams; re-teamed with McMillan for HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK; co-wrote the comedy hit STEPMOM and penned with William Broyles, Jr. Jon Amiel's caper movie, ENTRAPMENT - serving as executive producer on all of them.
Subsequently, Bass produced and adapted David Guterson's bestseller SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, in a screen version directed by Scott Hicks. He also wrote and produced the Demi Moore mystery PASSION OF MIND directed by Alain Berliner; wrote and executive produced Graham Theakston's THE LAZARUS CHILD and wrote and produced Petter Naess' MOZART AND THE WHALE.
For television, Bass served as co-executive producer and creator of the series DANGEROUS MINDS, based on his feature film, and MOLONEY. He also co-wrote three television movies: SWING VOTE, BORDER LINE and INVISIBLE CHILD.
At present, Bass is writing WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD with Forest Whitaker, the life story of Louis Armstrong, in which Whitaker will also direct and star.
ANNA HAMILTON PHELAN (Writer), an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, made her feature film debut with MASK, based on the true story of a bizarre-looking boy and his mother, starring Cher and Eric Stoltz. The screenplay earned a Writer's Guild nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Her adaptation of GORILLAS IN THE MIST, based on the life of primatologist Dian Fossey starred Sigourney Weaver and won an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as a Writer's Guild nomination.
She shared credit on IN LOVE AND WAR, a love story between Ernest Hemingway and an American nurse in WW I Italy, starring Sandra Bullock and Chris O'Donnell; then wrote and produced HBO'S "Into The Homeland," about a supremacist enclave in Idaho. She shared credit on GIRL, INTERRUPTED, based on the true story of a young woman's experience in a mental hospital in the 1960's.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION