Japan's Shockiku has stepped in as the first distributor to buy Martin Scorsese's The Aviator from Graham King's Initial Entertainment Group (IEG).

IEG is producing as well as handling international sales on the film which is set to star Leonardo DiCaprio and Barry Pepper. Nicole Kidman, who was attached to star in the film at one time, has had to drop out due to scheduling difficulties.

Shochiku co-acquired Gangs Of New York from IEG with Nippon Herald and also distributed IEG's Ali directed by Michael Mann in Japan. The Aviator is produced by Mann alongside Sandy Climan, King and Charlie Evans.

John Logan wrote the film which follows Howard Hughes and his obsession with aviation, perfecting the art of aerial photography and women. Scorsese is using CGI as well as real-life aerial flying to put together the aerial sequences in the film.

Meanwhile as well as his regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese is assembling a team of below-the-line talent which worked on Gangs: production designer Dante Ferretti, set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo and costume designer Sandy Powell.

IEG is selling the film at Cannes alongside Peter Howitt's romantic comedy Laws Of Attraction and Lasse Hallstrom's An Unfinished Life.