This is a true story about a fake story.

In 1971, Clifford Irving hoaxed the publishing world with an “autobiography” of the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Irving, desperate for a story which would bring him literary acclaim, devised evidence of “personal interviews” with Hughes. He was assisted in this hoax by his loyal friend Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina). Together they listened to tapes of Howard Hughes and studied his handwriting until they were able to produce letters, purportedly from the man himself, which eventually convinced Clifford’s publishers, McGraw- Hill, to finance the project to the tune of a million dollars.

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In fact Irving never met Hughes and when found out he served a prison sentence, then went on to write his own memoir about the fake memoir.

Richard Gere gives possibly his best performance ever as the suave, calculating Irving. He shows us not only the conman but a man losing his grip on reality as he begins to deceive himself and betray those closest to him. There are gripping moments when he has the opportunity to tell the truth – both about the book and later to his wife Edith about his mistress. It’s clear to us that Irving and Suskind are in this over their heads. Will they be found out? We know the answer, but this smartly written film keeps us guessing when and how.

William Wheeler’s screenplay is outstanding, inspired by Irving’s memoir. Alfred Molina as Suskind is a joy to watch, providing some of the most poignant as well as some of the funniest moments in this film. There is solid support too from Marcia Gay Harden as Irving’s long-suffering wife and Hope Davis as his pushy editor. A special mention should go to Stanley Tucci for a beautifully understated performance as Irving’s suspicious publisher.

Hallström successfully captures the style of the Seventies, aided by a breezy original score by Carter Burwell. He also shows us the dark undercurrents of the period. Contemporary news footage reminds us that America is still fighting the war in Vietnam and Nixon is still in the White House. As Irving gets deeper into his elaborate deception there is the suggestion that he is being used by Hughes to blackmail Nixon into saving his struggling airline. There are even hints about Watergate. Irving then sees a chance to be part of history by helping to bring down the President. This is a film which rattles along and it’s a terrific, entertaining ride.

(I wouldn’t lie to you.)

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2007
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The Hoax packshot
A writer creates a media sensation with his fake biography of Howard Hughes.
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Director: Lasse Hallström

Writer: William Wheeler, based on the book by Clifford Irving.

Starring: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Julie Delpy, Eli Wallach

Year: 2006

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


CFF 2007

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