‘L.A. Confidential’ Director Curtis Hanson Dead at 71

Curtis Hanson, the director and Oscar-winning screenwriter whose eclectic body of work included the film noir “L.A. Confidential,” the rap-music drama “8 Mile” and the offbeat comedy “Wonder Boys,” died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 71.

Los Angeles police were called to a home in the Hollywood Hills just before 5 p.m. on reports of a medical emergency, LAPD Officer Tony Im said.

“You never got the feeling you were watching a retread. He was able to transform all that into something very much his own.” 

— Peter Rainer, film critic for the Christian Science Monitor

Hanson was pronounced dead at the scene, and police say he died of natural causes. His family was notified of his death, police said.

Hanson fell gravely ill in November 2011 while directing the Northern California surfing drama “Chasing Mavericks,” starring Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler and Elisabeth Shue.

“Self-examination, to begin with. You know, who am I, how did I get here and how do I become a better version of myself. Self-destructiveness, because that is the beginning or negation of self-examination.… What I like doing is considering how a very binary, black-and-white vision of the world is overly simplistic. Contradictions are often no such thing.”

— Curtis Hansen

Director Michael Apted reportedly completed the final 15 days of principal photography on the film, which was released in October 2012.

L.A. Confidential” was the film that thrust Hanson into the forefront of American filmmakers in 1997. His critically acclaimed adaptation of James Ellroy’s intricately plotted novel about police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles earned him and co-writer Brian Helgeland an Oscar for adapted screenplay. Kim Basinger also won the supporting actress Oscar.

In all, the film received seven other Oscar nominations, including best picture and director for Hanson.

L.A. Confidential,” Hanson told The Times in 1997, was his most personal movie because Ellroy is “telling a story set in the same city that I grew up in and dovetails with certain ambitions that I’ve had in terms of telling an L.A. story.”

For Hanson, “L.A. Confidential” was a high-profile milestone in what he called “a long, long, uphill struggle” as a filmmaker.

“I spent so long trying to get to a place where I could just be able to direct a movie, and then struggled so long to be able to direct movies that I felt had some potential,” he told Canada’s Globe and Mail in 2000.

“By the time ‘L.A. Confidential’ came around I was, naturally, extraordinarily gratified by the acceptance the picture received,” he said. “But to me, there was no mystery about what the picture was. It was a labor of love that, for the first time, I was able to do.”

A one-time film journalist, Hanson began his Hollywood career as a screenwriter on a 1970 low-budget horror movie and made his debut as a director on “Sweet Kill,” a 1972 thriller that he wrote starring Tab Hunter as a psychopathic killer.

He directed only two other films and a TV movie before writing and directing “The Bedroom Window,” a 1987 romantic thriller that Hanson once described as being “my first professional debut in terms of being on the map.”

But it was the clout he earned from directing the commercially successful thriller “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and “The River Wild” with Meryl Streep in the early `90s, Hanson later said, that allowed him to make “L.A. Confidential.”

Hanson, whose films as a director include the 1990 suspense thriller “Bad Influence” with Rob Lowe and James Spader, went on to direct “Wonder Boys,” “8 Mile,” “In Her Shoes,” “Lucky You” and the HBO drama “Too Big to Fail.”

Peter Rainer, film critic for the Christian Science Monitor, said Hanson “was a student of film who worked his knowledge into his own movies in a really dynamic way. He had a real grasp of genre, not only of crime films but also of comedy with ‘Wonder Boys.’ He was extremely versatile.

“But there was nothing slavish about the movies that he made in their connection with older movies. You never got the feeling you were watching a retread. He was able to transform all that into something very much his own.”

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan remembered Hanson having “a great and abiding passion for the history of film, a gift for making genre come alive for modern audiences and a restless and wide-ranging curiosity that meant that each of his films was a new adventure both for viewers and for himself.”

Indeed, Hanson’s filmography as a writer, director and producer extended across a diverse spectrum of genres.

“I have deliberately tried to mix it up in my movies, because I enjoy visiting different worlds,” Hanson told London’s Guardian newspaper in 2005. “However, thematically, I find that things keep coming up….(read more)

Source: LA Times


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