- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Oscar-less Martin Scorsese is chasing after gold with his Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator.” As with 2002’s “Gangs of New York,” Miramax gave him big bucks to work his magic. Plying prestige directors like Mr. Scorsese with big budgets usually spells triumph, but, as in life, money isn’t everything.

Peter Jackson — Before “The Lord of the Rings” franchise came along, the director was moderately successful in his native New Zealand. Actually, “LOTR” didn’t come “along”; he and then-ailing New Line Cinema had to convince Miramax to entrust millions to a small-time director, an unknown digital-effects company and a first-time screenwriter.

Ang Lee — The Taiwanese transplant gained early acclaim for sensitive handling of literary source material both classic — “Sense and Sensibility” (1995) — and contemporary — “The Ice Storm” (1997). He was given a gobsmacking budget to turn a comic-book hero into a summer blockbuster. “Hulk” got angry, and the American public yawned.

John Frankenheimer — “The Manchurian Candidate” director had mostly done black-and-white period pieces before coming into a windfall for 1966’s race-car spectacle “Grand Prix,” starring James Garner.

Alfonso Cuaron — The “Harry Potter” franchise had already made zillions before it turned to this “Y Tu Mama Tambien” indie director, who kept the winning streak alive with this year’s “Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Doug Liman — He’s money, and he knows it. “The Swingers” helmer took a chancy Robert Ludlam adaptation, “The Bourne Identity,” starring an unproven action star (Matt Damon), and laid the foundation for a hip new franchise.

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