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Filmmaker George Hickenlooper Dead at 47

Filmmaker George Hickenlooper Dead at 47

Thompson on Hollywood

Saturday the Denver Post confirmed that film director George Hickenlooper was dead. The 47-year-old filmmaker was in Denver promoting his new movie Casino Jack, produced by and starring Kevin Spacey as controversial Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which was showing at the Starz Denver Film Festival. The cause of death is being investigated. He is survived by wife Suzanne and son Charles. It is always disturbing when folks in their prime leave us too soon.

Here’s The Playlist. And the LAT’s Steven Zeitchik spoke to Hickenlooper recently, as he was rooting for his cousin John, mayor of Denver, to win election as Colorado’s governor on Tuesday:

“There’s something unique about the United States, a sense of individual rights and freedoms, and a sense of social and civic responsibility that we contributed to so much of the world,” he said. “We lost that mission in the 1980s and 1990s, when we entered a gilded age, and the culture of individualism became a culture of avarice. It’s seen in every aspect of our culture. Everything is totally commodified, even in box office. Do you care how many Big Macs McDonald’s sold last week? How is that relevant? And that kind of feasting and ravenous thinking has seeped into the pores of our culture such that we’ve lost a sense of ourselves.”

The last time I communicated with Hickenlooper, he and New York documentary director Alex Gibney were facing off in the comments section of a November 2009 TOH blog post over who had the right to use the title “Casino Jack.” Hickenlooper had gone fictional with his film, Casino Jack (which played Toronto and other fests; I see it on Monday) while Gibney had stuck to the doc approach with Casino Jack and the United States of Money, which earned $177,000 at the U.S. box office for Magnolia Pictures.

Hickenlooper made his name by directing the must-see 1991 documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, an exhaustive portrait of filmmaker Francis Coppola during the filming of Apocalypse Now!. Hickenlooper’s last three films were indie projects that did not connect with wide audiences: the Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl, starring Sienna Miller (TWC, 2006), the documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003), and The Man From Elysian Fields (2001).

Hickenlooper was preparing to shoot in November the drama How to Make Love Like an Englishman starring Pierce Brosnan as a professor. Alas, that will now not happen.

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This is so sad as it was preventable and as one who has been in the world of alternative medicine for a long time, this was not a “natural” death. Untimely – yes, natural – no…by conventional medical standards perhaps but not by those who know what is possible thru lifestyle changes. Sleep apnea can be dealt with, or helped out by, sleeping sitting up, losing weight, exercising, singing (Alise Ojay’s Singing for Snorers), using Breathe Right strips, using a C-PAP machine (ideally to be only used if someone won’t do the aforementioned things or until those other things can get someone off the C-PAP machine) and possibly surgery if the condition is anatomically based. Why George was on Oxy? I have no idea but I bet he didn’t have to be and I bet there were less dangerous (if not those without any dangerous side effects) alternatives…alternative medicine does have effective options for chronic pain management (besides grinning and bearing it). And using alcohol while on a drug that tells you NOT to use alcohol while on it…I wonder if anyone who was close with him was aware of this? Even if they did, he was an adult and there’s only so much anyone else could have done. Prescription drugs and conventional medicine help kill another fairly young person. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. He will be sorely missed by those in the film community.


Fax Bahr was the co-director of HEARTS OF DARKNESS.

Hugh Hart

What a drag. I spoke to George Hickenlooper a while back about his Andy Warhol / Factory Girl movie and my impression was, this guy’s a true artist.

Dixon Steele

The great thing about GH is that he wasn’t afraid to publically call bullshit on those that deserved it: Thornton, Simon Monjack, the Coppolas, etc.

His best film remains, for me at least, THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS. I thought it was perfect, with Mick Jagger’s best film work ever, a tribute to GH’s sensitive direction.


Joseph Angier

Anne … Please remember also that George directed the short that went on to become the feature “Sling Blade,” no doubt causing Hollywood-style bad blood between him and BB Thorton.


RIP: his death is a big loss for his family, his friend and the moviegoers like me…..

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