Amelia (film)

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amelia the movie

Directed by

Mira Nair

Produced by

Ronald Bass
Hilary Swank
Ted Waitt
Kevin Hyman Lydia Dean Pilcher

Written by

Ronald Bass
Anna Hamilton Phelan


Hilary Swank
Richard Gere
Ewan McGregor
Christopher Eccleston

Music by

Gabriel Yared


Stuart Dryburgh

Editing by

Allyson C. Johnson

Distributed by

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Release date(s)

October 23, 2009 (2009-10-23)

Running time

111 minutes


United States




$40 Million

Gross revenue


Amelia is a currently released 2009 dramatized biographical film of the life of Amelia Earhart, starring Hilary Swank as Earhart along with a cast that includes Richard Gere, Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor. It is directed by Mira Nair based on a script initially written by Ronald Bass. The screenplay was largely based on research utilizing authoritative sources such as East to the Dawn by Susan Butler and The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell. To date, the film has garnered predominately negative reviews.


On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank), along with her navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston), is on the last leg of an around-the-world flight. Moving in vignettes from her early years when Earhart was captivated by the sight of an aircraft flying overhead on the Kansas prairie where she grew up, her life over the preceding decade gradually unfolds. As a young woman, she is recruited by publishing tycoon and eventual husband George Putnam (Richard Gere) to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean, albeit as a passenger. Taking command of the flight results in a success and she is thrust into the limelight as the most famous woman pilot of her time. Putnam helps Earhart write a book chronicling the flight, much like his earlier triumph with Charles Lindbergh’s We, gradually falling in love with his charge, and they eventually marry, although she enacts a "cruel" pledge as her wedding contract.

Embarrassed that her fame was not earned, Earhart commences to set a myriad of aviation records, and then recreates her earlier transatlantic flight, becoming the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. Throughout a decade of notoriety, Earhart falls into an awkward love affair with pilot and future Federal aviation administrator Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), but is drawn back to her husband on the eve of her last momentous flight, a round the world circumnavigation that is fraught with perils. Earhart’s first attempt ends in a fiery crash in Hawaii, forcing her to take the repaired Lockheed L-10 Electra "Flying Laboratory" in a reverse direction, leaving the lengthy transpacific crossing at the end of her flight.

Setting out to refuel at tiny Howland Island, radio transmissions between USCGC Itasca, a Coast Guard picket ship, and Earhart’s aircraft reveal a rising crisis, as her fuel begins to run out. Her last message is a cryptic position report that the Coast Guard radio operators realize is not of sufficient length to provide a “fix”. Earhart and Noonan continue to fly on, as the story ends.


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):

Actor Role
Hilary Swank Amelia Earhart
Richard Gere George P. Putnam
Ewan McGregor Gene Vidal
Christopher Eccleston Fred Noonan
Joe Anderson Bill Stutz
William Cuddy Gore Vidal as a young child
Mia Wasikowska Elinor Smith
  • Virginia Madsen was cast as Dorothy Binney, Putnam’s first wife, but her scenes were cut.


Hilary Swank took on the role of Executive Producer, working closely with Director Mira Nair. Filming took place in New York, Toronto, Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Nova Scotia, Dunnville, Ontario and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario as well as various locations in South Africa. Over the weekend of June 22, 2008 Swank was in Wolfville, Nova Scotia for filming at Acadia University. Although Swank is a pilot-in-training and three other women pilots were contracted for the flying scenes, Nair was concerned about insurance and liability issues, and opted for professional pilots, Jimmy Leeward and Bryan Regan to fly in the film. Contemporary newsreel footage of Earhart was interspersed throughout the film while a combination of static, real aircraft and Computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects was utilized for the flying sequences. Numerous period aircraft, automobiles and equipment were obtained to provide authenticity, including the use of two replica aircraft, a Lockheed Vega and Fokker F.VIIb/3m Tri-motor Friendship (with limited ability to run up engines and taxi). The Lockheed 12A Electra Junior "Hazy Lily" (F-AZLL) used alongside another Electra Junior, filled in for the much more rare Lockheed Electra 10E that Earhart used. Despite the efforts to faithfully replicate the period, numerous historical inaccuracies were evident, as chronicled in some reviews.


Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Bass wrote the script using books on Earhart as sources such as biographies by Susan Butler, East to the Dawn and Mary S. Lovell’s The Sound of the Wings as well as Elgen and Mary Long’s Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved. Although not intended to be a documentary, Bass incorporated many of Earhart’s actual words into key scenes. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anna Hamilton Phelan shared writing credits on the film, but had a different “take” on the direction taken in the original screenplay.


As of November 2, 2009 Amelia has received extremely negative critical reviews with a 17% "fresh" (85% "rotten") rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website based on 102 reviews with an average score of 4.4/10. Among Rotten Tomatoes’ "Cream of the Crop", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television, and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 12% based on 25 reviews. The RT Community reviewers, the other indicator on the site, has a more generous rating at 65%. Another review aggretator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating of 100 reviews from mainstream critics, gave the film a score of 38% based on 30 reviews (a weighted average of the score of 46.6%).

Echoing the majority view, Martin Morrow’s review on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was very critical of the film labeling it "a dud", declaring: "Hilary Swank may look the spitting image of Earhart in those vintage newsreels, but her performance is more insipid than inspiring. Mira Nair directs as if she were piloting an overloaded plane on an endless runway — the film lumbers along interminably, never achieving takeoff…" and "As the film limps to a close, Amelia has accomplished a feat we didn’t think possible: it has made us indifferent to this real-life heroine’s tragic fate.". Most critics decried the inconsistencies and lack of focus in the film; Manohla Dargis of the New York Times wrote, "The actors don’t make a persuasive fit, despite all their long stares and infernal smiling. …the movie is a more effective testament to the triumphs of American dentistry than to Earhart or aviation." Ric Gillespie, author of Finding Amelia, wrote that "…Swank, under Nair’s direction, accomplishes the amazing feat of making one of the most complex, passionate, ferociously ambitious, and successful women of the 20th century seem shallow, weepy, and rather dull."

A small number of positive reviews included Ray Bennett of the Hollywood Reporter who characterized the film as an "instant bio classic," stressing the impressive production values in which "director Nair and star Swank make her quest not only understandable but truly impressive." Matthew Sorrento of Film Threat, gave the film 4 stars, and wrote: "Director Mira Nair trusts her oldschool filmmaking style enough to inspire a fresh take on a legend." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 stars out of 4, and called it "a perfectly sound biopic, well directed and acted". In pre-release publicity, Hilary Swank had been touted as a candidate for a third Oscar, although the prevalent thought is that the prospect is becoming distant. Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, however, awarded the film 3 stars, praising Swank’s performance in her review stating that "like Maggie in Million Dollar Baby, [Swank] is unwavering in her gaze, ambition, and drive." and "in Nair’s evocatively art-directed (and sensationally costumed) film, Earhart comes alive.


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  2. Fleming, Michael. “Christopher Eccleston joins ‘Amelia'”. Variety, June 12, 2008. Variety. Retrieved: October 8, 2008.
  3. Siegel, Tatiana. “Ewan McGregor flies with ‘Amelia'”. Variety, May 26, 2008. Retrieved: October 8, 2008.
  4. ” ‘Amelia’ Full credits.” IMDb. Retrieved: October 24, 2009.
  5. Siegel, Tatiana. “Virginia Madsen added to ‘Amelia’.” Variety, April 21, 2008. Retrieved: October 8, 2008.
  6. Zohn 2009, p. 118.
  7. Coles 2009, p. 172.
  8. “Lucknow Native involved in production of ‘Amelia’ film.” Lucknow Sentinel via, October 21, 2009. Retrieved: October 25, 2009.
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  10. Braser, Bryant. “Amelia Flies With Subtle VFX: Nothing Flashy as Mr. X Recreates Period Planes and Settings for Earhart.”,October 22, 2009. Retrieved: October 25, 2009.
  11. O’Leary 2009, pp. 12–13.
  12. “Star of the silver screen visits Duxford.”, June 29, 2009. Retrieved: October 24, 2009.
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  14. O’Leary 2009, p. 12.
  15. Thompson, Anne. ” ‘Amelia’: When biopics go bad.” Thompson on Hollywood, October 23, 2009. Retrieved: October 24, 2009.
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  17. ” ‘Amelia’ Reviews, Pictures – Cream of the Crop.” Rotten Tomatoes, IGN Entertainment.
  18. ” ‘Amelia’ Reviews, Pictures – RT Community.” Rotten Tomatoes, IGN Entertainment.
  19. ” ‘Amelia’ (2009): Reviews.” Metacritic.
  20. Morrow, Martin. “Review: ‘Amelia’ – Hilary Swank’s evocation of legendary pilot Amelia Earhart just doesn’t fly.”, October 22, 2009. Retrieved: October 24, 2009.
  21. Dargis, Manohla. “An Adventurer Takes Flight, Blinding Smile and All.” New York Times, October 23, 2009. Retrieved: October 24, 2009.
  22. Bennett, Ray. ” ‘Amelia’: Film Review.” Hollywood Reporter, October 18, 2009. Retrieved: October 24, 2009.
  23. Sorrento, Matthew. ” ‘Amelia’ Current Movie Reviews, Independent Movies.” Film Threat, October 23, 2009. Retrieved: October 25, 2009.
  24. Ebert, Roger. “‘Amelia’ (PG).” Chicago Sun-Times, October 21, 2009. Retrieved: October 25, 2009.
  25. Rickey, Carrie. “Swank soars as flier Amelia Earhart.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 22, 2009. Retrieved: October 25, 2009.
  • Butler, Susan. East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997. ISBN 0-306-80887-0.
  • Coles, Joanna. ” Hilary Swank is Ready for Takeoff.” Marie Claire, November 2009.
  • Goldstein, Donald M. and Katherine V. Dillon. Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer. Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1997. ISBN 1-57488-134-5.
  • Long, Elgen M. and Marie K. Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. ISBN 0-684-86005-8.
  • Lovell, Mary S. The Sound of Wings. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. ISBN 0-312-03431-8.
  • O’Leary, Michael, ed. “Amelia on the Silver Screen.” Air Classics, Volume 45, No. 11, November 2009.
  • Rich, Doris L. Amelia Earhart: A Biography. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. ISBN 1-56098-725-1.
  • Zohn, Patricia. “Oh So Swank.” Town and Country, October 2009.

External links