Curtis Hanson, who won an Oscar for cowriting his film L.A. Confidential, died yesterday at the age of 71. The exact cause is unknown, but the director had been retired due to Alzheimer’s disease and had suffered from heart problems in recent years. His final film was 2011’s Chasing Mavericks, which he had to exit before finishing and leave to Michael Apted to complete. But he’s left behind a wealth of work that also includes the excellent Wonder Boys and the Eminem-led 8 Mile (pictured below), based on the rapper’s own life.
Hanson came up in familiar fashion for filmmakers of his generation. Before becoming a director, he worked for Cinema magazine as a photographer and through his pictures helped land Faye Dunaway her breakout role in Bonnie and Clyde. He then found his start in Hollywood via Roger Corman, who produced Hanson’s first work as a writer, 1970’s The Dunwich Horror, and his directorial debut, 1972’s Sweet Kill. In the decades that followed, Hanson showed tremendous versatility through a wide range of movies.
He eventually had a real box office hit in 1992 with the thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and five years later earned his greatest acclaim for L.A. Confidential, for which he was also nominated for Best Director and, as a producer, Best Picture. Additionally, Kim Basinger won an Oscar for her supporting performance in the film. From there he continued to take on a diverse array of projects, including the rom-com In Her Shoes and HBO’s financial-crisis drama Too Big to Fail.
Below are some clips showcasing his most memorable works.
First up is one of the favorite scenes from L.A. Confidential, featuring Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, both of whom were relative unknowns before being cast in the movie.
Of course, we also have to share a scene from the movie featuring the Oscar-winning Basinger as a prostitute made to resemble screen star Veronica Lake.
Next is the climactic rap battle between Eminem and Anthony Mackie from 8 Mile, one of the crowd-pleasing moments from the musical, which also won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Wonder Boys, which also won an Oscar for Best Original Song, should have been at least as decorated as L.A. Confidential. Many consider it an even better film, though they’re so different and difficult to compare. Here’s an early scene between Michael Douglas as a college professor and Tobey Maguire as his student.
Finally, here’s a thrilling trailer for one of Hanson’s most underrated movies, The River Wild, which dared make Meryl Streep an action hero. He would later make his acting debut as Streep’s character’s husband in Adaptation.