Sad news to report. Academy Award winning filmmaker Curtis Hanson passed away on Tuesday afternoon. Hanson’s most lauded work was surely the 1997 noir L.A. Confidential, which earned him an Adapted Screenplay Oscar, yet he helmed thirteen feature films in his distinguished career. Reportedly, he passed away of natural causes in his Hollywood Hills home. Hanson was 71-years old.
Over the course of a nearly fifty year career in the industry, Hanson came to prominence in the early 1990s due to the success of thrillers The Hand That Rocked the Cradle (1992) and The River Wild (1994) – the latter of which starred Meryl Streep in a Golden Globe nominated role. Hanson’s first credited script was for the 1970 thriller The Dunwich Horror; his directorial debut came two years later with the horror entry Sweet Kill.
It was L.A. Confidential, Hanson’s 1950s-set pot-boiler that cemented his reputation as one of the finest contemporary filmmakers. Hanson co-wrote the Oscar winning screenplay alongside Brian Helgeland in this movie adaptation of James Ellroy’s classic novel about corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department. A critical darling in its year (ever more so than Oscar behometh Titanic), the film was justly lauded for its attention to period detail as well as its tight and kinetic filmmaking. Featuring a tony ensemble cast that included rising stars Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, as well as compelling turns from Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell and Kim Basinger (in her Oscar-winning role), L.A. Confidential is still celebrated among critics and cinephiles.
Following L.A. Confidential, Hanson directed the critical hit Wonder Boys, which featured a strong, uncharacteristic leading turn from a Golden Globe nominated Michael Douglas. The ensemble was equally sterling: Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire and Katie Holmes. While Hanson had a knack for getting the best out of his actors, his 2002 film 8 Mile is still distinctly notable as the star of that film was Eminem, who won an Oscar for that’s film original song, “Lose Yourself.” In the past decade, Hanson directed In Her Shoes (2005) with Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine and the gambling romance Lucky You (2007) with Eric Bana and Drew Barrymoore as well as the HBO movie Too Big to Fail (2011). He was last attached to direct the surfer bio Chasing Mavericks (2012), but had to drop out due to undisclosed health issues – he was replaced by Michael Apted.