Filmmaker Curtis Hanson, who directed acclaimed films 8 Mile and L.A. Confidential, has died aged 71.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD was called to a Hollywood Hills home around 5pm for what’s being described as a medical emergency. Hanson was pronounced dead on the scene and police have said he died of natural causes and his family was notified.
Hanson had been a journalist and screenwriter before directing small indie projects. He directed Bedroom Window, his first major feature, in 1987. Hanson finally broke through big in the early 90s, with successful films like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and River Wild. But it was his 1997 adaptation of James Ellroy’s novel about police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles that really pushed Hanson into Hollywood’s elite.
Starring Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger and Russell Crowe, L.A. Confidential would be a major box office hit when it was released in 1997 and Hanson and his co-writer Brian Helgeland won an Oscar for adapted screenplay. Basinger also won the supporting actress Oscar. Hanson was nominated for Best Director but lost to James Cameron (Titanic.)
Hanson followed the success of L.A. Confidential with Wonder Boys, a film that was critically-acclaimed but that suffered commercially. Hanson’s commercial standing bounced back in 2002, when he directed Eminem in the hit 2002 hip-hop drama 8 Mile. The movie, about a struggling battle rapper trying to push his career forward while dealing with poverty and dysfunctional family issues, was also critically acclaimed remains one of the most celebrated hip-hop movies ever made.
In a 2002 interview with Rolling Stone, Hanson described what he’d wanted to accomplish with 8 Mile.
“I saw, in the original script, an opportunity to deal with themes that I think about and mean a lot to me,” he explained. “People — young people in this case — trying to figure out how to lead their lives in a society where the traditional sign posts are either not there or barely legible, racial relations in our country, and the way in which art — in this case hip-hop — allows and enables people to emotionally connect in a way that they are able to transcend their circumstances. Then, you combine that with Detroit, this city that once promised a future to literally anyone and has gone through times where it’s struggling to find its way in the same way that our characters are, and it was an unbelievably potent opportunity.”
Condolences to Hanson’s family and friends. Check out some of the best moments from 8 Mile below.