The Oscar winning director Curtis Hanson has died aged 71. Although not a household name and with only a relatively small back catalogue of 17 films that he directed much of his work was memorable with probably the best regarded being, ‘LA Confidential’.
A native of Reno, Nevada he would grow up in the San Fernando valley in LA and eventually dropped out of high school. From here he started working, initially, as a photographer before he moved into screenwriting regarding this as the best way into the industry needing only a typewriter and a good idea resulting in his first feature film being the long forgotten, ‘The Dunwich Horror’ in 1970. It would be a while though before any notable success came his way and that was in 1992 with the thriller ‘The Hand that rocks the Cradle’ with Rebecca DeMornay as a vengeful nanny. From here his films began to catch attention and he next cast Meryl Streep in her first action film ‘The River Wild’ but it was the film after this that would really cement his reputation. The film was ‘LA Confidential’ a study of police corruption in Hollywood in its golden era and earned Kim Basinger her only Oscar. It was also the first film that he produced too. The story attracted him primarily ‘because that’s where I grew up’. Hanson won an Oscar too for his screenplay though lost out as best director to James Cameron and his box office behemoth ‘Titanic’.
The string of memorable films continued with ‘Wonder Boys’ starring Michael Douglas & Tobey Macquire before he went onto direct a ‘8 Mile’ an unusually good film because of its lead actor , the rapper Eminem, putting in a great performance in a thinly disguised biographical film. Hanson admitted that he knew little if anything about rap & hip hop and described the film as a ‘leap of faith’ on both his and Eminem’s part. After this his output was less successful and by 2012 his last film was the forgettable ‘Chasing Mavericks’ although eventually he had had to drop out of that due to illness with the rest of the film being completed by Michael Apted.
Ultimately he retired from film making altogether due to his battle with Alzeimer’s and complications from a heart surgery operation in 2011.
He was highly regarded by all the actors he worked with and seen as a friendly and talented director.