Leonardo DiCaprio's career is taking flight — literally. Fresh off his Golden Globe-nominated turn as a faux airline pilot in Steven Spielberg's cat-and-mouse caper Catch Me If You Can, the 28-year-old actor will next portray Howard Hughes in the big-budget biopic The Aviator.

"It seems like I'm going to be immersed in two films that are very much about the world of aviation," DiCaprio acknowledges to TV Guide Online. "There are no similarities in the storyline or the structure, but, certainly, [both movies] are about people taking chances that nobody else did at the time."

The Aviator — which reteams DiCaprio with his Gangs of New York director Martin Scorsese — will focus on Hughes's early life. "It's about young Howard Hughes and his triumphs, and then his initial descent into madness," he explains. "It goes right up to him flying the Spruce Goose, or what he liked it to be called, The Hercules." Although the film doesn't begin shooting until May, the Titanic star isn't waiting until then to get himself acquainted with the friendly skies. "I'm going to try and get up there and pilot a plane as research. I'm scared s--tless about it."

Of course, flying as a mere passenger doesn't spook DiCaprio — for the most part. "I don't have those phobias," he says. "I know a lot of people in this business that can only take private planes because they're really freaked out about flying, but it's pretty safe when you think about it.

"The only daunting thing," he adds, "is knowing that if you crash, most of the time you're over an ocean and there's nowhere to land. That's the scary thing for me about being up in a plane."