"I am a movie lover before I am a movie maker."

Name: Curtis Hanson
Date of Birth: 24 March 1945
Place of Birth: Reno, USA

After working in film his entire life, critical success has come late for Curtis Hanson, with L.A. Confidential being his real breakthrough, directed at the age of 52. Now a very respected director, we can only hope for more of the same in the years to come.

The Early Years
Curtis was born towards the end of the Second World War in Reno, Nevada. His love for cinema was evident from a very early age and he began writing for Cinema magazine while still a teenager. Having said this, he has no real film work to his name until he hit 25, when he co-wrote the Roger Corman produced film, The Dunwich Horror. It was a fairly weak adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft story, but at least it gave Hanson a foot in the door. In 1970, Hanson directed his first film, The Arousers (also known as Sweet Kill), which was little more than an exploitation flick starring Tab Hunter as a serial killer.

Hanson didn't direct again for 8 years, and during this time spent his time (not massively successfully) as a screenwriter, including knocking out the screenplay for the moderately successful Canadian move, The Silent Partner. His next directorial project was the kids movie The Little Dragons about karate, as far as I can tell. Sounds like an odd one. This was followed by Losin' It in 1983 - a teen sex comedy, starring the then unknown Tom Cruise, about some college students going to Mexico and making a pact to lose their virginities. Fairly dire by all accounts, this was to be Hanson's last film before becoming a director for hire by the studios and churning out (actually quite good) dark suspenseful thrillers.

The Thrillers
It was in 1987 that Curtis was to release his first suspense filled thriller, The Bedroom Window. Highly influenced by the work of Alfred Hitchcock (but what thriller isn't?), it starred Steve Guttenberg as a man whose life is changed forever after embarking on an affair with a mysterious woman (Isabelle Huppert). This was followed in 1990 by Bad Influence - this time the Hitchcock influence is even more blatant, especially in similarities to Strangers on a Train. Both films are reasonably good, and Bad Influence enjoyed moderate commercial success.

In 1992, Curtis released The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, another thriller starring Rebecca De Mornay as a psychotic nanny with a grudge against the family she is supposed to be helping. Received very well, this was certainly Hanson's biggest money spinner to date and paved the way for Curtis' future projects. The River Wild was Curtis' next release - it starred Meryl Streep as a mother forced to help two armed robbers raft down a treacherous section of river. Again reasonably well received, the movie has not aged well and feels a little shallow.

L.A. Confidential

"It's hard to sum up L.A. Confidential from a plot point of view in one line,
whereas The Hand That Rocks the Cradle or The River Wild is very simple."

- Curtis Hanson

In 1997, seemingly from nowhere, Curtis Hanson pulled a completely unbelievable movie out of his hat. From the novel of the same name by James Ellroy, L.A. Confidential blew away almost everything else released that year and in fact, in the whole of the 90s. Weaving story strands with astonishing ease to tell the labyrinthine story about corrupt cops investigating a shooting in the 1950s, Hanson managed to make stars of antipodeans Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (actually Guy was born in Ely, England, but I digress), cement the reputation of Kevin Spacey after his roles in The Usual Suspects and Se7en and give Kim Basinger her first role in 3 years. It took a while, but the critics did eventually go crazy over this movie, but the Academy seemed less impressed - the movie did get a Best Picture nomination and Basinger won the Best Supporting Actress gong, but it deserved so much more. James Cameron's Titanic won Best Picture and, while it may be an incredible technical achievement, I think there are few who will still claim it to be a better movie than L.A. Confidential.

Wonder Boys
After the large scale success of L.A. Confidential, Curtis was propelled headfirst into the Hollywood A-list and had pretty much free reign over what he wanted to do next. Thankfully, he chose to take his time over his next project and continued his history of using thoughtful, interesting material. Wonder Boys, based on the acclaimed novel by Michael Chabon, is the story of Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas), a college professor cum writer suffering writer's block while his personal life also falls apart. A wry comedy, Wonder Boys was received very well by critics but certainly failed to set the box office alight. It won Bob Dylan an Oscar for Best Song.

8 Mile
When stories first started to appear that Eminem would be making his acting debut, there was vocal derision of the possibility of another Snoop Dogg in Bones or, even worse, Vanilla Ice in Cool as Ice. These fears were quickly quashed when it was revealed that Curtis Hanson, just off the back of L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys, was to take the helm - it seemed unlikely he'd mess it up and we were into Ice Cube in Three Kings territory. Much was made of the fact that, even though the film was 'not a biography', Eminem would basically be playing Eminem with dark hair, and again the great unwashed seemed to want the film to fail. Released in late 2002 to fairly unanimous critical acclaim, it seems that Curtis has done it again. While there is very little to the story (in direct contrast to L.A. Confidential), the performances are all pretty much spot on. Hanson gets a moving portrayal of the difficulties of life in poverty from Marshall Mathers III and elicits powerful performances from everyone else, including Brittany Murphy and L.A. Confidential star Kim Basinger.

It looks like Curtis Hanson's next project will be Lucky You, a drama set in the world of professional poker playing - the story of a man confronting his personal demons to win a world championship tournament in Las Vegas. Little else is known and it looks like shooting isn't even close to starting.


"Movies are the record of our lives, and of the culture that produced most of us,
and it's tragic that so many movies were treated so cavalierly in the past,
not only allowed to destruct but were destroyed intentionally, just to make space."

- Curtis Hanson

The UCLA Film and Television Archive was set up in 1999 to preserve and showcase not only film classics but also current film and television. It's main remit is "an aggressive program of acquisition, restoration, transfer and maintenance of its extensive collections of motion pictures, broadcast programming and newsreels". It currently holds the second largest collection of media materials in the United States. Curtis Hanson is it's first and current chairman.


The Arousers (aka Sweet Kill) (1972)
The Little Dragons (1980)
Losin' It (1983)
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Bad Influence (1990)
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992)
The River Wild (1994)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Wonder Boys (2000)
8 Mile (2002)

Lucky You (2003)
The Dunwich Horror (1970)
The Arousers (aka Sweet Kill) (1972)
The Silent Partner (1978)
White Dog (1982)
Never Cry Wolf (1983)
The Bedroom Window (1987)
L.A. Confidential (1997)

Editors Note: Curtis Hanson died on September 20, 2016, of natural causes. He was 71 years old.

the almost implausible imdb.com

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