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You Totally Forgot About Gwen Stefani’s Iconic Role in The Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio
Martin Scorsese reportedly discovered Gwen Stefani because his daughter was a fan of No Doubt, helping him decide to cast her as Hollywood's original "Blonde Bombshell."
It’s no secret that powerhouse Gwen Stefani is amazing at everything she does, whether in music, fashion, or as a fan-favorite Coach on NBC’s The Voice. So, when it came to casting someone to play Hollywood’s O.G. blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, in The Aviator, the platinum-haired singer was a no-brainer.
Surprise, surprise! Acting is just another feather Stefani can add to her impressive cap.
Who Was Gwen Stefani in The Aviator?
Released in 2004 and directed by Martin Scorsese, The Aviator earned 11 Academy Award nominations, ultimately winning five. The film was a biopic of eccentric billionaire and legendary aviator Howard Hughes, played by the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio.
In real life, Hughes had his finger in many business ventures and an affinity for aviation, where he set multiple airspeed world records and won the Congressional Gold Medal for his achievements. But he was also the film tycoon and producer behind the successful 1930s movies Hell’s Angels and Scarface, among others.
Hughes was also known as a playboy, having been romantically linked to numerous starlets, including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, and Gloria Vanderbilt, to name a few. In The Aviator, Hughes’ romantic partners Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner were played by Cate Blanchett (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress) and Kate Beckinsale, respectively.
Gwen Stefani had the part of Jean Harlow, who starred in Hughes’ 1930 film Hell’s Angels opposite future 20th Century Fox exec, Ben Lyon (Lyon would later be the one to put Marilyn Monroe on the map).
While small, Stefani’s role as Harlow helped The Aviator cast earn a SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Other cast members of The Aviator included Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, John C. Reilly, and Alec Baldwin.
Who Was Jean Harlow?
The Missouri-born actress, whose life was tragically cut short at 26 years old, earned many monikers during her career, including “The Platinum Blonde,” thanks to her brightly colored locks. Today, Harlow is widely regarded as the original “Blonde Bombshell,” coming onto the scene years before the likes of Monroe and Lana Turner (and Gwen Stefani).
Hughes was the first to sign Harlow, giving her the role of leading lady “Helen” in Hell’s Angels. With clothes that barely covered her unmentionables — and Harlow’s reported dislike for wearing underwear — Harlow soon became a bona fide sex symbol in Hollywood just a few years before new censorship codes (introduced in 1934) would limit how much skin could appear on the big screen.
Harlow starred in several silent films and Golden-Age pictures, such as The Public Enemy in 1931 and Red-Headed Woman in 1932.
Harlow’s hair was the subject of much scrutiny at the time because she regularly denied coloring it. However, a personal hairdresser later confessed they achieved the right hue by using hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite bleach, ammonia, and Lux flakes.
Harlow died of kidney failure in 1937 at age 26, which prompted many rumors over the decades, including botched surgical procedures, homicide, and toxicity from the very chemicals that gave her hair its signature color.
Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow
In 2004, Stefani said she didn’t mind having little dialogue in The Aviator but was excited to be in good company, according to MTV News.
Fans can briefly catch Stefani’s character walking arm-in-arm with DiCaprio’s character at the Hell’s Angels red carpet premiere in the film’s trailer, sporting near-silver hair, red lips, and diamonds.
Stefani explained how she was discovered in the first place.
“Martin Scorsese’s driving in New York City, and he sees my Teen Vogue cover on the side of a bus stop shelter,” Stefani said. “And he’s like, ‘Who’s that girl? Let’s get her!’ I had Leonardo DiCaprio tell me the whole story in Martin Scorsese’s voice, so it was pretty bizarre.”
Stefani added it “was like a dream come true” and that she channeled the same creative streak she used as the frontwoman for the ‘90s band, No Doubt.
“I’ve been trying out for movies for years,” Stefani said. “Because it all comes from the same place, all the creative things inside you, and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. But when you’re touring and writing and busy, you can’t compete with some of these actresses that are like, that’s what they do every day.”
In another MTV News interview, Stefani said her “stomach was on the floor” when auditioning in front of both Scorsese and DiCaprio.
“Obviously, [Harlow’s] the original blonde bombshell,” Stefani continued. “You can see that she inspired me.”
It also helped that “Marty’s daughter loves No Doubt,” according to Stefani.