Starring: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina
Director: Lasse Hallström
Studio: Miramax 50339
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9, color
Audio: English or Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary track by Director Hallström & Writer William Wheeler, 2nd commentary track by Producers Leslie Holleran & Joshua D. Maurer, “Stranger Than Fiction” (Making-of featurette), Mike Wallace: “Reflections on a Con,” Deleted scenes with Hallström & Wheeler, Extended scene “Business As Pleasure”
Length: 115 minutes
The Hoax is a wild and almost unbelievable story based on what may have been the biggest literary con of the 20th century. Clifford Irving – a writer whose new book had just been turned down by McGraw-Hill – convinces them that he has been personally chosen by reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes to write his authorized autobiography. Since Hughes never responds to anything directly and nobody is sure what he looks or sounds like, Irving thinks he can get away with it. He recruits his research assistant (Molina) to illegally photograph some Hughes handwriting at The Library of Congress and secures other information on the man which he can quote to back up his story. He practices imitating Hughes on some past tapes of the man’s voice.
Irving runs into plenty of suspicion about the verity of his Hughes material and has to create elaborate covers to get the millions the publisher (and Look magazine) are paying him and Hughes. His wife travels to Switzerland to try to cash the check made out to “H.R. Hughes.” Meanwhile he dallies with a previous girlfriend and even stages a supposed visit by Hughes himself to McGraw-Hill – ingeniously called off at the last possible moment (the copter carries not Hughes but his research assistant) due to a mistake in the symbols on the landing platform – which Irving himself drew and blamed on one of the staff. The story has its thrills and intrigue, but also wonderful satires of the corporate publishing empire and plenty of outright comedy. The long deleted scene “Business As Pleasure” at a McGraw lunch is hilarious and shows how Gere and Molina worked together as both their characters and actors in ad-libbing exchanges about Hughes which they made up on the spot. It’s easy to see why the scene had to be cut short in the film, because both actors broke up at the increasing outrageousness of their bogus revelations. Also, be sure to view the two Mike Wallace extras first, which show a bit of his actual interview with Irving, as he admits to being entirely convinced the man was truthful. The tie-in with the Vietnam protests of the time, and even the Watergate debacle is touched on in some of the screen images, the plot, and the extras.
The transfer is excellent, acting first rate, and the historical information in the extras and during the end titles is very helpful in reminding the more forgetful of us seniors about those very eventful times.
– John Sunier