After a long illness, beloved Executive Board member and Oscar-winning filmmaker Curtis Hanson passed away on Tuesday, September 20, 2016.
A director, producer and writer, Hanson was a brilliant storyteller whose illustrious career spanned four decades. His passion for film history and his magnificent talent for bringing story to life will not soon be forgotten. Recognized and lauded by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the London Film Critics Circle, the Cannes Film Festival, the National Board of Review and many others, Hanson was a beloved figure in the industry and he leaves behind a Midas-touch legacy.
Hanson was a great supporter of UCLA TFT. He was the honorary Chair of the UCLA Film & Television Archive and always maintained his love for film history and the importance of preserving our national artistic treasure for generations to come. He hosted a very popular screening series at the Billy Wilder Theater that focused on the films that inspired other renowned filmmakers and artists such as Christopher Nolan, Todd Haynes, Michael Mann and Carrie Fisher, among others; his outstanding conversations with them always enthralled audiences. Hanson loved doing this for students and for the public. While he probably did not intend this, because he was always so gracious about making the program about everyone else, this screening series showcased what a master storyteller he was.
Born in Reno, Nevada, Hanson grew up in Los Angeles and started as a freelance photographer and editor for Cinema magazine, which he claimed as his “film school.” In 1970, he went on to co-author The Dunwich Horror, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story. This was followed in 1973 by Sweet Kill, which he directed, produced and wrote. Then in 1978, he wrote and produced The Silent Partner, starring Elliot Gould and Christopher Plummer. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he directed a string of comedies and dramas. He did thrillers, too — many of them would deal with people who lost a sense of control or security when facing danger and the threat of death.
In the 1990s, Hanson rose to critical acclaim with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild and L.A. Confidential, which was nominated for nine 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. Hanson’s later projects included Lucky You, In Her Shoes, 8 Mile, Wonder Boys and the HBO movie Too Big to Fail.
Curtis Hanson brought joy, laughter and tears to the screen. When describing the type of stories he chose to tell, he once said, “I have deliberately tried to mix it up in my movies, because I enjoy visiting different worlds. However, thematically, I find that things keep coming up…self-examination, to begin with. You know, who am I, how did I get here and how do I become a better version of myself? Self-destructiveness, because that is the beginning or negation of self-examination.”