Curtis Hanson, the Oscar-winning filmmaker whose hits include 1997’s L.A. Confidential, 2002’s Eminem drama 8 Mile, and the 2011 HBO movie Too Big to Fail, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 71.
An LAPD spokesperson confirmed his death to EW.
Born in Reno, Nevada, on March 25, 1945, Hanson initially made his name in Hollywood as a director-for-hire on low-budget fare like the 1983 Tom Cruise teen-sex romp Losin’ It before scoring with a series of successful thrillers in the early 1990s, including Bad Influence with Rob Lowe and James Spader, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle with Rebecca DeMornay, and The River Wild with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.
But with the 1997 noirish drama L.A Confidential, the journeyman director graduated to the major leagues. The twisty crime drama, based on an acclaimed novel by James Ellroy, earned a total of nine Oscar nominations, winning two: for Hanson and Brian Helgeland’s adapted screenplay as well as for Kim Basinger’s memorable turn as a hooker caught up in an elaborate underworld racket in 1950s Los Angeles.
“L.A. Confidential is everything a studio doesn’t want to make,” the director told EW in 1998. “It’s a period film, and it’s got lots of complex characters. On top of that, I wanted to cast it with unusual people.” In addition to Basinger, Hanson populated the movie with relative unknowns such as Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in order to upend audience expectations about where the players might fall on the good/bad divide.
In his subsequent films, Hanson continued to be drawn to complex personalities. He won critical acclaim but very little box office for Wonder Boys, a 2000 adaptation of Michael Chabon’s writerly novel that starred Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire. He followed with the 2002 Eminem quasi-biopic 8 Mile, which earned the rapper an Oscar for Best Original Song. Hanson’s star-studded 2011 HBO movie about the 2008 financial meltdown, Too Big to Fail, earned critical praise and 11 Emmy nominations. After suffering complications from heart surgery in fall 2011, he had to back out of directing duties on the Gerard Butler surfing movie Chasing Mavericks mid-production; British director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) stepped in for the final few weeks of principal photography.
Additional reporting by Oliver Gettell.