Director Curtis Hanson, the man behind the modern neo-noir “L.A. Confidential” and the hip-hop drama “8 Mile,” died yesterday afternoon at the age of 71. According to Variety, he reportedly died of “natural causes” in his Hollywood Hills home.
Hanson got his start working for the legendary Roger Corman, first writing the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation “The Dunwich Horror” and then writing and directing his first feature “Sweet Kill,” about a man who kills women while sleeping with them for sexual gratification.
The director worked steadily through the 70s and 80s, collaborating with actors like Tom Cruise on the 1983 teen comedy “Losin’ It” and with Rob Lowe and James Spader in “Bad Influence.” But his first major success came in 1992 with the psychological thriller “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” about a vengeful nanny (Rebecca De Mornay) out to destroy a woman (Annabella Sciorra) responsible for her sexual abuser husband’s suicide. Following that film was the commercially successful “The River Wild,” starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, David Strathairn, John C. Reilly, and more, about a family on a whitewater rafting trip who encounter criminals in the woods.
Then in 1997, Warner Bros. released “L.A. Confidential,” co-written and directed by Hanson from James Ellroy’s novel of the same name, to widespread critical and commercial success. Starring Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, two relative unknowns in America at the time, the film follows three L.A. police officers in the early 50s as they investigate a series of murders and the corruption in their own department. The film was nominated for nine Oscars and won two: Best Supporting Actress for Kim Basinger, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Hanson and co-writer Brian Helgeland.
After “L.A. Confidential” came a string of critically acclaimed films, including “Wonder Boys,” about a college professor with writer’s block and his various on-campus relationships, and “8 Mile,” starring Eminem in a semi-autobiographical film as a young white rapper struggling to launch his career. In a statement, Eminem said that, “Curtis Hanson believed in me and our crazy idea to make a rap battle movie set in Detroit. He basically made me into an actor for ‘8 Mile.’ I’m lucky I got to know him.”
After the dramas “In Her Shoes” and “Lucky You,” Hanson’s film work slowed down. His last two projects were the HBO TV drama “Too Big To Fail” and the film “Chasing Mavericks,” about the life of surfer Jay Moriarity, co-directed with Michael Apted after complications arose of Hanson’s recent heart surgery.
Read some reactions from Hanson’s colleagues below.
So sad to hear about Curtis Hanson. great director. great man. Riding that river with him was one of the greatest gigs of my life
— Kevin Bacon (@kevinbacon) September 21, 2016
It was an honor to make “Bad Influence” with Curtis Hanson. So smart, so kind and a great storyteller. I will miss him.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) September 21, 2016
— Abigail Spencer (@abigailspencer) September 21, 2016
Sad to learn of the death of a worthy and talented craftsman and storyteller. https://t.co/8MuVCULERa
— David Simon (@AoDespair) September 21, 2016
Fellow Corman alumnus & dedicated film buff Curtis Hanson has passed.
A terrific guy who made some terrific movies. https://t.co/1RoH5WdZXd
— Joe Dante (@joe_dante) September 21, 2016
RIP Curtis Hanson. LA Confidential is one of the all time greats.
— steven pasquale (@StevePasquale) September 21, 2016
Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay has also issued the following statement:
“We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Curtis Hanson. As a filmmaker, Curtis often sent his characters into unexpected, dangerous situations that required quick thinking and skilled precision to emerge victorious. This was much like Curtis’ own directing, where he thought on his feet and used his honed mastery of the craft to create worlds of suspense and emotion.”
“As a DGA member, Curtis was a champion of protecting the director’s vision, serving on the DGA’s Creative Rights Committee. He was also a tireless advocate for film preservation, serving on the President’s Committee on Film Preservation, and as a board member of The Film Foundation. We are proud to have recognized Curtis with a DGA Honor in 2003 for his prolific career as a director, producer and preservationist. He will be deeply missed.”