Obituary: Curtis Hanson, Oscar-winning screenwriter and film director

Oscar-winning filmmaker Curtis Hanson. Picture :AP/Carlos JassoOscar-winning filmmaker Curtis Hanson. Picture :AP/Carlos Jasso
Oscar-winning filmmaker Curtis Hanson. Picture :AP/Carlos Jasso
Curtis Hanson, who won a screenwriting Oscar for LA Confidential and directed The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and 8 Mile. Born 24 March, 1945 in Reno, Nevada. Died 20 September in Hollywood Hills, aged 71.

Director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Curtis Hanson, who was suffering from a rare terminal condition called Frontotemporal Degeneration, has died.

Hanson’s partner, Rebecca Yeldham, said a feature of the disease is that sufferers are unaware they have the condition. “We will be forever thankful that Curtis never suffered in the knowledge of his illness or prognosis,” she said in a statement. “He died peacefully in his sleep.”

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Rap starEminem was among many who worked with Hanson who has paid tribute to him after his death.

“Curtis Hanson believed in me and our crazy idea to make a rap battle movie set in Detroit,” Eminem said in a statement. “He basically made me into an actor for 8 Mile. I’m lucky I got to know him.”

A native of Reno, Nevada, who grew up in Los Angeles, Hanson dropped out of high school to work as a photographer, writer and editor for the magazine Cinema. “It was, in a sense, my film school,” Hanson said in a 2002 interview.

He began screenwriting and directing in the early 1970s, but didn’t see serious success until directing 1992’s The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The film, starring Rebecca De Mornay as a revenge-seeking nanny, became a major hit.

Hanson went on to direct 1994’s The River Wild with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.

“Great director. Great man,” Bacon wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night. “Riding that river with him was one of the greatest gigs of my life.”

He also was in the director’s chair for Wonder Boys the 2000 film starring Tobey Maguire and Michael Douglas that is considered his best work by many fans and critics.

Maguire said through his publicist that Hanson “was a generous and talented man. I’m grateful to have known and worked with him”.

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Hanson’s breakthrough as an acclaimed filmmaker came with 1997’s LA Confidential, which he co-wrote and directed. Hanson was lauded for taking James Ellroy’s massive novel about cops, criminals and tabloid rags in 1950s Los Angeles and streamlining it into a riveting thriller without losing its nuance.

Hanson and co-writer Brian Helgeland won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Hanson was nominated for best director and the movie for best picture.

LA Confidential introduced Russell Crowe to American audiences and was a career high point for many of those involved, including Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger, who also won an Oscar.

Crowe addressed Hanson directly on Twitter on Tuesday night, saying “Thank you for believing in me . . . In reality you made my job a career.” Spacey said in a statement that he “loved Curtis for believing in me, shaping me and allowing me to dress like Dean 

“We had an extraordinary ensemble of actors in LA Confidential’ who took our lines, gave them emotion, humour, life,” Hanson said in his Oscar acceptance speech.

Hanson explored a different sort of darkness in 8 Mile, the film starring Eminem that explored the gritty streets and trailer parks of Detroit and closely mirrored the rapper’s own younger life.

Hanson chose to shoot the movie in the actual burned-out homes and vacant storefronts of the real city. “Everything about the story felt better to tell it here in Detroit,” Hanson said in 2002.

Hanson said he had only a passing knowledge of hip-hop when he entered the project, and that he and Eminem “had to convince each other” they could both handle the movie as each envisioned it.

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“While I was checking him out, he was certainly checking me out,” Hanson said in an interview. “We spent a lot of time together, and we then made a somewhat educated leap of faith.”

Hanson most recently directed the 2011 HBO movie on the financial crisis, Too Big To Fail, and the 2012 Gerard Butler surfing movie Chasing Mavericks. Besides Yeldham and their son, Rio, Hanson is survived by his mother, brother and sister-in-law.

Copyright New York Times 2016. Distributed by NYT 
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