Curtis Hanson


Director, Screenwriter

About

Also Known As
Curtis Lee Hanson
Birth Place
Reno, Nevada, USA
Born
March 24, 1945

Biography

A former high school dropout who became a photographer and editor at Cinema magazine, writer-director Curtis Hanson honed his filmmaking skills by writing screenplays for low-budget horror flicks before directing eventually Oscar-caliber films. As with seemingly everyone of his age who wielded a camera, Hanson had his start penning "The Dunwich Horror" (1970) for the definitive mentor, R...

Notes

When Hanson got the opportunity to direct his script of "The Bedroom Window", he had to first secure membership in the Directors Guild of America. To this end, he sought the endorsement of three DGA members "whom I admired as filmmakers and as men," he says. His signatories were John Cassavetes, Don Siegel and Sam Fuller."They were three directors whose movies and careers meant a lot to me. I felt that the three of them--Cassavetes, the maverick independent; Don Siegel, the consummate studio director; and Sam Fuller, who worked in both worlds--were always able to make original, personal movies," Hanson says. "I hoped that a little of their good fortune would rub off on me." --from the press kit for "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"

"One of my great joys is that Elliot Gould, with whom I eventually became close, took 'The Silent Partner' and screened it for Hitchcock. The prick didn't invite me, I might add. But he called me immediately afterward saying, 'Hitch loved the movie!'" --Curtis Hanson quoted in Venice, September 1997.

Biography

A former high school dropout who became a photographer and editor at Cinema magazine, writer-director Curtis Hanson honed his filmmaking skills by writing screenplays for low-budget horror flicks before directing eventually Oscar-caliber films. As with seemingly everyone of his age who wielded a camera, Hanson had his start penning "The Dunwich Horror" (1970) for the definitive mentor, Roger Corman, before directing "Sweet Kill" (1973) for the low-brow producer. In the 1980s, he graduated to Hitchcockian thrillers like "The Bedroom Window" (1987) and "Bad Influence" (1990), which paved the way for his true breakthrough film, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992), a tense psychological thriller that became his first bona fide box office hit. Following the action adventure "The River Wild" (1994), Hanson reached true artistic heights with his lush adaptation of James Ellroy's "L.A. Confidential" (1997), widely considered to be the best crime noir since "Chinatown" (1974). From there, he made the quirky adaptation of Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys" (2000) before drawing a convincing performance from rap star Eminem in "8 Mile" (2002). After directing the dueling-sisters comedy-drama "In Her Shoes (2005), poker drama "Lucky You" (2007) and television political drama "Too Big to Fail" (HBO 2010), Hanson fell ill with heart trouble during the filming of surf drama "Chasing Mavericks" (2012), causing the film to be finished by Michael Apted. Hanson never directed another film and died at his home in the Hollywood Hills on September 20, 2016 at the age of 71. Throughout his career, Hanson was able to keep critics guessing while maintaining his status as one of Hollywood's most diverse directors.

Born on March 24, 1945 in Reno, NV, Hanson grew up in Los Angeles, where he was raised by his father, William, an elementary school teacher, and his mother, Beverly, a realtor. As a youngster, Hanson came to appreciate all forms of storytelling, reading the works of Dickens, Twain and Conrad while falling in love with movies, particularly the work of Alfred Hitchcock. While in high school, he and old friend Willard Huyck - who later penned "American Graffiti" (1973) - picked up an 8mm camera and shot a film that mimicked Federico Fellini's "8 ½" (1963). He then turned the Hanson home into a movie theater and charged friends and neighbors 50 cents to see his first film. Dissatisfied with the discipline of going to high school, Hanson dropped out, and found work as a photographer and editor for Cinema magazine. He was instrumental in helping actress Faye Dunaway land her seminal role in "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), when his pictures of her on another film set where seen by actor-producer Warren Beatty and director Arthur Penn. Hanson used his clout with Dunaway to gain access to that set, where he interviewed director Penn and Beatty for the magazine.

During this time, Hanson befriended several big name directors of the day, including Don Siegel and Sam Fuller, the latter of whom invited the ambitious young man to watch him edit his films. Meanwhile, he segued into the filmmaking side himself by co-writing "The Dunwich Horror" (1970), an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's story courtesy of producer Roger Corman, and Hanson made his feature debut as a director with the unsettling cult horror flick "Sweet Kill" (1973), which starred former teen poster boy Tab Hunter as a sex-obsessed serial killer. But since Corman was disappointed in the box office results, he had Hanson reshoot additional sex scenes and re-released the film under the alternate titles, "The Arousers" and "A Kiss from Eddie." After a long gap between films, Hanson made the jump to producing with "The Silent Partner" (1978), a crime thriller he wrote starring Elliot Gould as a bank teller who figures out a psychopath (Christopher Plummer) is about to rob his bank. Hanson returned to the director's chair with "The Little Dragons" (1980), a children's adventure about two boys studying martial arts, who try to use their nascent skills to save their family from being held captive.

With director Samuel Fuller, Hanson co-wrote the screenplay for the racially-charged melodrama "White Dog," which was filmed in 1982, but not released until 1991 - and in Europe, not the United States - due to unfounded charges of racism. While Fuller's career was irrevocably damaged, Hanson continued to rise up the ranks, writing the script for "Never Cry Wolf" (1983), an atypical tale about a biologist (Charles Martin Smith) who spends time observing caribou in the Arctic, only to discover that their numbers are being eliminated at an alarming rate by humans. Hanson turned to the sex comedy genre to direct "Losin' It" (1983), which starred a young Tom Cruise, who travels to Tijuana, Mexico with his three buddies (Jackie Earle Haley, John Stockwell and John P. Navin, Jr.) in order to lose his virginity. After helming "The Children of Times Square" (ABC, 1986), which centered on teenage runaways, Hanson began coming into his own as a specialist in suspense movies, starting with "The Bedroom Window" (1987), an homage to Hitchcock about a man (Steve Guttenberg) having an affair with his boss' wife (Isabelle Huppert), who becomes the suspect in a murder after witnessing a killing during a tryst.

Hanson continued to display Hitchcock's influence on his work with "Bad Influence" (1990), a "Strangers on a Train"-like psychological suspense thriller about a successful marketing analyst (James Spader) who falls prey to the corrupting wiles of an enigmatic drifter (Rob Lowe). With his next project, Hanson finally enjoyed a runaway box-office success with "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992), a thriller that starred a startlingly creepy Rebecca DeMornay as a nanny-from-hell, who has taken the job with a family in order to exact her revenge for her husband's suicide. He continued his success in the genre with "The River Wild" (1994), a tense adventure set in the great outdoors that starred Meryl Streep in her action movie debut and featured a top-notch supporting cast including Kevin Bacon and David Strathairn. Shot on location along the winding Kootenai River in Montana, the film resembled "Deliverance" (1972) in many ways, with its focus on a group of white-water rafters fleeing psychopathic killers. But Hanson focused more on making it an action picture, while eliciting strong performances out of his A-list stars.

Hanson used his new-found clout in Hollywood to adapt James Ellroy's self-described "adaptation-proof" "L.A. Confidential" (1997), with its labyrinth plot, eighty speaking parts and numerous locations. Writing the script with Ellroy's blessing and the help of screenwriter Brian Helgeland, the result was an impeccably crafted, densely plotted and surprisingly fast-paced tale of police corruption in the City of Angels in the 1950s, making "L.A. Confidential" the best-reviewed American film noir since Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" (1974). Not only was "L.A. Confidential" a hit with critics and audiences, it earned numerous awards at the end-of-year ceremonies, winning Academy Awards for Kim Basinger and the writing team of Hanson-Helgeland.

Hanson's work on "L.A. Confidential" elevated him out of conventional journeyman status and into consideration for some of Hollywood's top projects. Rather than plunge into a whirlwind of new commitments, he instead continued to nurture thoughtful, literate material. His next effort was "Wonder Boys" (2000), a film based on author Michael Chabon's acclaimed novel about a college professor and author (Michael Douglas) who has been unable to finish a massive follow-up to his one highly-praised novel, and his quirky relationship with a young, troubled student (Tobey Maguire). Hanson next turned his skilled hand on a more unconventional film, "8 Mile" (2002), a street-level drama played out in the hip-hop world of urban Detroit, starring and loosely based on the life of Grammy-winning rapper, Eminem. Adopting a raw, gritty documentary filmmaking style, Hanson was able to garner a compelling, intense performance from Eminem in his first on-screen role, as well as strong work from Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Pfifer and his "L.A. Confidential" star, Kim Basinger.

Continuing to demonstrate his diversity, Hanson took on what, in other hands, might have been a conventional female-centric drama, "In Her Shoes" (2005), starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette as close, but opposite sisters. Continuing to keep critics off balance, Hanson directed "Lucky You" (2007), a coming-of-age relationship drama about Huck Cheever (Eric Bana), an exceptionally talented, but emotional poker player, who falls for Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), a young singer from Bakersfield with more talent than heart. Both were critically panned and essentially ignored by audiences, making less than $6 million at the box office. Turning to the small screen, he directed "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), the critically acclaimed docudrama chronicling the major players engulfed in the financial crisis of 2008 that brought the global economy to its knees. Hanson's efforts earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special. Hanson's final film, surf drama "Chasing Mavericks" (2012) had to be completed by director Michael Apted when Hanson had to undergo heart surgery halfway through filming. Hanson died at his home in the Hollywood Hills on September 20, 2016, at the age of 71.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Too Big to Fail (2011)
Director
Lucky You (2007)
Director
In Her Shoes (2005)
Director
8 Mile (2002)
Director
Wonder Boys (2000)
Director
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Director
The River Wild (1994)
Director
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)
Director
Bad Influence (1990)
Director
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Director
The Children Of Times Square (1986)
Director
Losin' It (1983)
Director
The Little Dragons (1980)
Director
Sweet Kill (1972)
Director
The Arousers (1970)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Adaptation. (2002)
Orlean's husband
Orientations - Christopher Doyle: Stirred Not Shaken (2000)
I Think I Cannes (1999)
Take My Advice: The Ann & Abby Story (1999)
Change of Heart (1998)
Praying Mantis (1993)
Fade to Black (1993)
Homewrecker (1992)
Admiral Torborg
The Last Innocent Man (1987)
The Goonies (1985)
Off Sides (Pigs vs. Freaks) (1984)
Killing At Hell's Gate (1981)
Reunion (1980)

Writer (Feature Film)

Lucky You (2007)
Screenplay
Me, You, Them (2000)
Sundance Script Supervisor
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Screenwriter
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Screenplay
The Children Of Times Square (1986)
Screenplay
Never Cry Wolf (1983)
Screenplay
White Dog (1982)
Screenplay
The Silent Partner (1978)
Screenwriter
Sweet Kill (1972)
Writer
The Dunwich Horror (1970)
Screenwriter
The Arousers (1970)
Screenplay

Producer (Feature Film)

The Big Year (2011)
Producer
Too Big to Fail (2011)
Executive Producer
Lucky You (2007)
Producer
In Her Shoes (2005)
Producer
8 Mile (2002)
Producer
Wonder Boys (2000)
Producer
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Producer
The Little Dragons (1980)
Producer
The Silent Partner (1978)
Associate Producer

Cast (Special)

Kevin Bacon: Am I Me? (2002)
Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows (2000)
Dial H For Hitchcock: The Genius Behind the Showman (1999)
Interviewee
The Director's Vision: Hollywood's Best Discuss Their Craft (1998)

Cast (Short)

North by Northwest: One for the Ages (2009)
Himself
The Searchers: An Appreciation (2006)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Dead by Sunset (1995)
Judge Alexander

Life Events

1970

As Curtis Lee Hanson, co-scripted first feature (with Henry Rosenbaum and Ronald Silkosky) "The Dunwich Horror," an AIP thriller executive produced by Roger Corman

1973

Directorial debut, "The Arousers/Sweet Kill" (also wrote screenplay), starring Tab Hunter

1978

Made producing debut as associate producer on "The Silent Partner" (also screenwriter)

1983

Helmed "Losin' It," starring Tom Cruise

1986

Made TV debut as writer-director of "The Children of Times Square," an ABC TV-movie about a teen runaway

1989

Wrote and directed the surprisingly good homage to Hitchcock "The Bedroom Window"

1990

Directed "Bad Influence," starring Rob Lowe and James Spader

1992

Helmed surprise hit thriller "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"

1994

Stock soared with commercial success of "The River Wild," starring Meryl Streep

1997

Scored major critical success for directing "L.A. Confidential" (also co-produced and co-wrote with Brian Helgeland), received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director; won award for Best Adapted Screenplay

2000

Helmed the screen adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel "Wonder Boys," starring Michael Douglas

2002

Directed and produced "8 Mile," a film starring Eminem loosely based on the rapper's life

2005

Directed the adaptation of Jennifer Weiner's novel "In Her Shoes," starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette

2007

Helmed "Lucky You," a drama set in the high-stakes world of professional poker co-starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore

2011

Directed and produced HBO film "Too Big to Fail"

2012

With Michael Apted, co-directed sport drama "Chasing Mavericks"

Videos

Movie Clip

Never Cry Wolf (1983) - Territorial Dispute Researcher Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) catches on to his neighbor's methods and amuses himself with Gilbert & Sullivan in director Carroll Ballard's Never Cry Wolf, 1983.
Never Cry Wolf (1983) - 23 Mice Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) comes up with a theory about how the wolves survive, requiring an outlandish experiment in director Carroll Ballard's Never Cry Wolf, 1983.
Never Cry Wolf (1983) - Get a Grip In narration he co-wrote, Charles Martin Smith (as Tyler) surveys his situation after being dropped on Alaskan ice for his wolf-research mission in Carroll Ballard's Never Cry Wolf, 1983.
L.A. Confidential (1997) - Open, Hush-Hush Scandal sheet editor Danny DeVito narrates the prurient opening to Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, 1997, also starring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger, from James Ellroy's novel.
L.A. Confidential (1997) - Nite Owl Grisly events in Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, 1997, in which Lt. Exley (Guy Pearce) takes the call for a mass murder, victims including the newly-fired partner of Sgt. White (Russsell Crowe).
L.A. Confidential (1997) - Just Don't Shoot Me "Trashcan" Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and ambitious Lt. Exley (Guy Pearce) grill a suspect then stage a raid during a murder dragnet in Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, 1997, from James Ellroy's novel.
L.A. Confidential (1997) - Blood On Your Shirt Lots of cursing in the second meeting of Sgt. White (Russell Crowe) and Veronica Lake look-alike hooker Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), in Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, 1997, from James Ellroy's novel.
L.A. Confidential (1997) - Fleur de Lis Sleazy editor Hudgens (Danny DeVito) and crooked cop "Trashcan" Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) stage a minor-celebrity pot bust for publicity in Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, 1997.
Dunwich Horror, The - Completely Wiped Out Nancy (Sandra Dee) doesn't know she's been drugged by Wilbur (Dean Stockwell) so she agrees to stay in the guest room where she has a freaky nightmare in The Dunwich Horror, 1970.

Family

William Hanson
Father
Elementary school teacher. Died in 1994.
Beverly June Hanson
Mother
Realtor.
Jack Hanson
Uncle
Clothing shopowner. Owned Jax, a popular clothing shop for women; underwrote Hanson's CINEMA magazine.

Bibliography

Notes

When Hanson got the opportunity to direct his script of "The Bedroom Window", he had to first secure membership in the Directors Guild of America. To this end, he sought the endorsement of three DGA members "whom I admired as filmmakers and as men," he says. His signatories were John Cassavetes, Don Siegel and Sam Fuller."They were three directors whose movies and careers meant a lot to me. I felt that the three of them--Cassavetes, the maverick independent; Don Siegel, the consummate studio director; and Sam Fuller, who worked in both worlds--were always able to make original, personal movies," Hanson says. "I hoped that a little of their good fortune would rub off on me." --from the press kit for "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"

"One of my great joys is that Elliot Gould, with whom I eventually became close, took 'The Silent Partner' and screened it for Hitchcock. The prick didn't invite me, I might add. But he called me immediately afterward saying, 'Hitch loved the movie!'" --Curtis Hanson quoted in Venice, September 1997.

"Rather than being a director for hire as I have been on most of my films, 'L.A. Confidential' is that one project where I've been able to cash in the chips I've earned from being lucky enough to have had a couple of financially successful films and saying, 'Okay, now this is the film that I want to make.' It's my most personal movie. Whether it achieves any popular acceptance or not is less important to me. That's not why I made it." --Hanson in Venice, September 1997.