In 1970, authors Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) and Richard Suskind (Alfred Molina) get together and devise a scheme that they're sure will make them wealthy. After doing extensive research, Irving writes an unauthorized biography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes – filled with fictional events.
Using forged documents, he convinces publishing company McGraw-Hill that he has a close relationship with Hughes, and successfully signs a lucrative book deal. Naturally, when the bogus book comes out, experts immediately question its authenticity, but McGraw-Hill stands by Irving. Irving’s plan is carried out so persuasively that even when Hughes momentarily emerges from seclusion to address the media in a telephone news conference and discredits the book, McGraw-Hill continues to support him.