Friday, 4 February 2011

The Hoax

Last night I watched The Hoax, the 2006 film starring Richard Gere. It was a fascinating film, not just because of the lovely Mr Gere. The film tells the true story of how an author called Clifford Irving tries to pull off the publishing hoax of the century by claiming to have written the biography of millionaire recluse Howard Hughes with the great man's co-operation. Somehow he manages to convince New York publishers McGraw-Hill and earns himself a million dollar advance.

I missed this film on its cinema release, but was drawn to it because it deals with selling a manuscript to a publisher. There aren't many films around which deal with this subject, at least not that I'm aware of. And it's an entertaining caper. At first you sympathise with Irving, dropped by his publisher and clearly desperate to find a deal clincher. But as his lies force him into increasingly bizarre situations - requesting McGraw Hill clear the top three floors of their building so Hughes can helicopter in for a meeting, only to have the helicopter scoot off before landing - we see how it is affecting his state of mind. Paranoid and deluded at times that he actually is Howard Hughes, Clifford's life is unravelling. Whether that much is true or not is unclear. The real Irving decried the film as being unrepresentative of his story although it was based on his own book of the same name.

In any case the truth, predictably, comes out when Hughes holds a televised phone conference denouncing Irving as a fraud.

But Gere does a very good job conveying the conflicts and frailties of this con-man. And even though the events happened in 1971, I doubt the greed represented in this corporate world has changed very much.

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