Curtis Hanson
Curtis Hanson.JPG
Hanson at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival
Curtis Lee Hanson

(1945-03-24)March 24, 1945
DiedSeptember 20, 2016(2016-09-20) (aged 71)
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1970–2012
Notable workThe Dunwich Horror
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
The River Wild
L.A. Confidential
Wonder Boys
8 Mile
In Her Shoes

Curtis Lee Hanson (March 24, 1945 – September 20, 2016) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. His directing work included the psychological thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), the neo-noir crime film L.A. Confidential (1997), the comedy Wonder Boys (2000), the hip-hop biopic 8 Mile (2002), the romantic comedy-drama In Her Shoes (2005), and the made-for-television docudrama Too Big to Fail (2011).

For his work of L.A. Confidential, Hanson won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1998, for co-writing with Brian Helgeland, alongside with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and for winning the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, and became one of the five directors (alongside Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, and Barry Jenkins) to ever sweep "The Big Four" critics awards (LAFCA, NBR, NYFCC, NSFC).[1] An active member of the Directors Guild of America, he was a member of the Creative Rights Committee, the President's Committee on Film Preservation, and the Film Foundation.[2]

Early life

Hanson was born in Reno, Nevada, and grew up in Los Angeles.[3] He was the son of Beverly June Curtis, a real estate agent, and Wilbur Hale "Bill" Hanson, a teacher.[4][5][6] Hanson dropped out of high school, finding work as a freelance photographer and editor for Cinema magazine.[7]

Film career

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Hanson began screenwriting in 1970, when he co-wrote The Dunwich Horror, a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story. Hanson wrote and directed his first feature, Sweet Kill starring Tab Hunter, in 1973. Then in 1978, he wrote and produced The Silent Partner, starring Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer. From the early 1980s into 1990s, Hanson directed a string of comedies and dramas. He directed thrillers, too: many of them deal with people who lose their sense of control or security when facing danger or under threat of death.[citation needed] Some, like the financial executive in Bad Influence and the police officers in L.A. Confidential, unexpectedly walk into violence and disaster.[citation needed]

In the 1990s, Hanson found box-office success with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild, and received significant critical acclaim for his 1997 film L.A. Confidential, an adaptation of the James Ellroy novel. The film was nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and won two — Best Adapted Screenplay (a credit Hanson shared with Brian Helgeland), and Best Supporting Actress (for Kim Basinger).[1] Hanson's later works included In Her Shoes, Wonder Boys, 8 Mile, and Lucky You.

Hanson said that he was heavily influenced by the directors Alfred Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray. In an interview with the New York Times in 2000, Hanson stated that Ray's film In a Lonely Place was among many that he watched in preparation for the filming of L.A. Confidential.[8] In 8 Mile, Kim Basinger's character watches Elia Kazan's Pinky on television. The film is about a mixed-race girl who passes as white; the reference to it in Hanson's film functions as an homage to the themes of racial mixing and boundary-crossing that are features of much of his work.[citation needed]

In 2011, Hanson made Too Big to Fail, based on the 2009 Andrew Ross Sorkin book of the same name about the beginnings of the financial crisis of 2007–2010. The film, produced by Hanson's production company Deuce Three Productions for HBO, featured among its cast William Hurt as Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson, and Cynthia Nixon as his liaison to the press; James Woods as Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers; and Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke.[9] His last film was Chasing Mavericks in 2012, but he was unable to finish the film due to ill health. Michael Apted replaced him as director during the final days of shooting.[10]


Hanson later retired from film work and was reported to have frontotemporal dementia. He died of natural causes at his Hollywood Hills home at the age of 71.[7][11]



Year Title Director Writer Producer
1972 Sweet Kill Yes Yes Yes
1980 The Little Dragons Yes No Yes
1983 Losin' It Yes No No
1987 The Bedroom Window Yes Yes No
1990 Bad Influence Yes No No
1992 The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Yes No No
1994 The River Wild Yes No No
1997 L.A. Confidential Yes Yes Yes
2000 Wonder Boys Yes No Yes
2002 8 Mile Yes No Yes
2005 In Her Shoes Yes No Yes
2007 Lucky You Yes Yes Yes
2012 Chasing Mavericks (with Michael Apted) Yes No Yes

Other film work

Year Title Producer Writer Other Notes
1970 The Dunwich Horror No Yes No Co-writer with Henry Rosenbaum & Ronald Silkosky
1978 The Silent Partner Associate Yes No
1982 White Dog No Yes No Co-writer with Samuel Fuller
1983 Never Cry Wolf No Yes No Co-writer with Sam Hamm & Richard Kletter
1987 Evil Town No No Yes Footage from unfinished film God Bless Dr. Shagetz[12]
2002 Adaptation No No Yes Cameo
2011 The Big Year Yes No No


Year Title Director Executive
Writer Notes
1986 The Children of Times Square Yes No Yes Television film
2002 Greg the Bunny Yes No No Episode "Piddler on the Roof"
2010 Three Rivers No Yes No Episode "Win–Loss"
2011 Too Big to Fail Yes Yes No Television film
2014 Hoke No Yes No Television film

Music video



Bad Influence

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

L.A. Confidential


8 Mile

Too Big to Fail


  1. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (March 24, 1998). "'Titanic' Ties Record With 11 Oscars, Including Best Picture". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  2. ^ Dagan, Carmel (September 21, 2016). "Curtis Hanson, Director of 'L.A. Confidential,' Dies at 71". Variety. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  3. ^ "Curtis Hanson, Oscar-winning director of LA Confidential, dies aged 71". The Guardian. September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  4. ^ "* Wilbur (Bill) Hanson; Educator". Los Angeles Times. February 16, 1994.
  5. ^ "Survival Lesson For 'River' Director". The New York Times. October 5, 1994.
  6. ^ Kappa Delta Sorority (1941). "Angelos". Angelos of Kappa Delta (v. 37, no. 2). ISSN 1064-5837. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  7. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis; Vankin, Deborah (September 20, 2016). "Curtis Hanson dead at 71". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Lyman, Rick (December 15, 2000). "A Dark Lesson in Trust". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Too Big To Fail": The story behind HBO's movie", interview with Curtis Hanson, Marketplace (radio program), May 23, 2011.
  10. ^ "Curtis Hanson: Oscar-winning writer and director dies at 71". BBC News. September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  11. ^ Bromwich, Jonah Engel (September 21, 2016). "Curtis Hanson, Director of Wicked Noir 'L.A. Confidential,' Dies at 71". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 26, 2021.
  12. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved September 30, 2021.