As with Orson Welles own movie about Clifford Irving, F FOR FAKE, I don't think anybody should get too upset when a film called HOAX, is not totally accurate with the historical facts. The press notes for the movie even point out all the fake moments that occur in the film, which Tony has described so well in his post above.
The press notes also make it clear that the connection between Howard Hughes and Nixon that Clifford Irving may have inadvertingly stumbled onto was based mostly on indirect evidence, but is still food for thought. Did Nixon order the Watergate break-in to get a fake manuscript of Irving's book about the secret loans Hughes made to Nixon's bother?
Given what we already know what Nixon did, it's really not that much of a stretch to believe it, since nobody seems to have come up for a reasonable explaination of why Nixon wanted the Watergate offices raided.
And let's not forget that during this time, Orson Welles had done his own very satrical portait of tricky Dick Nixon's exploits along with Vice President Agnew, that appeared on the LP "The Begatting of the President." That may have caused Welles to be entered on Nixon's enemies list, just below Jane Fonda name, as well as having his taxes audited.
HOAX - (from the Production Notes)
A NOTE ON CLIFFORD IRVING AND WATERGATE
In THE HOAX, Clifford Irving’s story of bold deception collides with one of the biggest scandals of power and corruption that has ever hit the U.S.: the ill-fated and illegal break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Hotel – an event that would ultimately bring down
the administration of President Nixon and permanently change American politics.
Did Clifford Irving truly find himself, however unwittingly, as a player in the back-story of Watergate? Considerable evidence unearthed by producer Josh Maurer suggests he did. According to such sources as Senate Watergate Committee hearings, FBI files and the memoirs of former members of
Nixon’s administration, Nixon either read the galleys or was provided a summary of Irving’s unpublished book prior to June, 1972 – and erupted with concern over the fact that it highlighted shockingly accurate, theretofore top-secret information about illegal loans Howard Hughes had made to Nixon’s brother (Donald) in exchange for favors. “We were stunned - and intrigued - to discover the very real probability that this hoax prompted Nixon’s terror of a connection between the DNC and Howard Hughes,” says producer Leslie Holleran.
The arrival of Irving’s soon-to-be-published book coincided with a time when Nixon had ample reason to fear that the powerful Hughes, under pressure of government lawsuits and angry over nuclear testing in Nevada, might seek to destroy his administration. Adding fuel to the fire was the discovery
made by “the Plumbers” in the first Watergate break-in that DNC Chairman Lawrence O’Brien was on Hughes’ payroll. While no one will ever know how each of the many pieces of the puzzle factored into Nixon’s mind when he ordered the second break-in at the Watergate Hotel, it appears that the revelations in Irving’s forthcoming book were involved in the mix.
For example, in former White House Counsel John Dean’s book Blind Ambition he reports that:
“[Robert Bennett] came to see me. He wanted me to have the Justice Department investigate Irving. I passed, but I remember that Haldeman [H.R. Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff] wanted to find out what was in the Irving manuscript. And somebody from the White House got a copy from the publisher.”
Dean also quotes former Chief Counsel Charles Colson as saying: “Everyone figured Maheu [referring to Robert Maheu, a former FBI and CIA employee who was a key figure inside Hughes’ organization] might have supplied Irving with information one way or another... The way I see it, Haldeman was worried about that coming out. Another messy Hughes scandal.”
FBI files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act further confirm that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was sending Haldeman reports on the Irving affair. This is further corroborated by Senate Watergate Committee testimony, such as this confession from Nixon’s political adviser Charles “Bebe” Rebozo: “The concern was principally any disclosure that the president had received Hughes’ money… I didn’t want to risk even the remotest embarrassment about any Hughes connection to Nixon.”
The widely praised book Citizen Hughes: The Power, The Money and The Madness by Michael Drosnin, further builds the central thesis that Nixon’s driving concern was that the Democrats were being fed scandalous information by Howard Hughes’ inside organization – leading back to Clifford Irving’s book and its highlighting of the illegal loans. Finally, in his own memoirs (RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon) former President Nixon writes: “There was new information... that the Hughes organization might be involved. And there were stories of strange alliances.” One of the great true-life ironies of Clifford Irving’s story is that he found himself, however unintentionally, in the middle of this realm of strange alliances – all based on an alliance between himself and Howard Hughes that never happened!
FICTION: In the film, McGraw Hill employees and Clifford Irving are seen waiting for a helicopter purportedly holding Howard Hughes to land.
FACT: There were never preparations made for a helicopter landing at McGraw-Hill.
HOAX: Clifford Irving definitively reported to producer Josh Maurer that it was a fact, that was not included in the book, but later suggested it was fanciful.
FICTION: In the film, McGraw-Hill passes on Clifford Irving’s latest manuscript.
FACT: Irving actually had a 4-book deal at McGraw-Hill at the time of the ruse.
HOAX: Lasse Hallström notes that McGraw-Hill had previously published Irving’s book Fake!, about forger Elmyr de Hory, which perhaps should have tipped them off to his fascination
with the false.
FICTION: In the film, Irving is seen attending Truman Capote’s celebrity-studded Black & White Ball.
FACT: The real Black & White Ball took place in 1966 and Clifford Irving wasn’t there.
HOAX: Costume designer David Robinson put Richard Gere in a black cat-mask, just like Frank Sinatra wore at the real ball.
FICTION: In the film, Irving lives in Upstate New York and travels across the United States preparing his fake book on Howard Hughes.
FACT: Irving’s primary residence was Ibiza, Spain during 1971.
HOAX: Screenwriter William Wheeler condensed many events and dramatized interactions that actually took place via letters and phone calls. If Ibiza was used in the film, notes Wheeler, “the entire movie would’ve been a 90-min shot of a man on a telephone in Spain.”
FICTION: In the film, a hotel in the Bahamas is evacuated of all visitors at Howard Hughes’ insistence,
FACT: Hughes was living at Paradise Island in the Bahamas but no such incident was ever reported.
HOAX: The filmmakers wanted to emphasize a reality – the Hughes was obsessed with heavy security and avoiding the public eye. There are stories that he once insisted the lobby of Las Vegas’ Desert Inn be empty when he entered it.
FICTION: In the film, Irving steals portions of Noah Dietrich’s Howard Hughes book right out from under him in his own house.
FACT: Clifford Irving actually got access to Dietrich’s manuscript (published as Howard: The Amazing Mr. Hughes) through an intermediary, but when told he had to read the one and only copy privately and return it, he had it Xeroxed without permission so that he and Dick Suskind could use the reproduction as further information for their book.
HOAX: The scene in the film plays on the way Irving copied the manuscript illicitly.
FICTION: In the film, Dick Suskind is seen having an affair with a hooker.
FACT: The loyal Suskind never had such an affair.
HOAX: The filmmakers took Suskind even deeper into Clifford Irving’s world than he really went to push the dimensions of their friendship.