Cate Blanchett is innegotiations to play Katharine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale is in talks to playAva Gardner in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator which is set to start shooting next month. Theywould join Leonardo DiCaprio who will play Howard Hughes in the film which is budgeted at a reported$100m.

Other actors who are close to joining the cast are No Doubt pop queen Gwen Stefani to play Jean Harlow and John C Reilly, who starred in Scorsese's Gangs Of New York.

Initial Entertainment Group(IEG) is handling international sales of the film, while Miramax Films and Warner Bros are co-distributing in North America.

A co-production betweenForward Pass, Cappa Productions and Appian Way, The Aviator was written by John Logan and follows the life ofHoward Hughes from his first film Hell's Angels in 1930 to 1946. It encompasses his obsession withflying and aerial cinematography as well as his romantic dalliances withactresses such as Hepburn and Gardner.

Blanchett, who is currentlyshooting The Missing for directorRon Howard opposite Tommy Lee Jones, is also scheduled to star in AliasGrace for Working Title Films and MissPotter for Phoenix Pictures.

Beckinsale meanwhile iscurrently shooting Universal's epic Van Helsing opposite Hugh Jackman.

Producers on the film areMichael Mann and Sandy Climan of Forward Pass, IEG's Graham King, andCharlie Evans (whose previous production credits include Johnny Depp's TheBrave).

Among the firstinternational buyers to have committed to The Aviator are Shochiku in Japan and TFM in France.