‘8 Mile’ direc­tor, Os­car-win­ning writer Cur­tis Han­son dies

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By An­drew Dalton

LOS AN­GE­LES >> Cur­tis Han­son, who won a screen­writ­ing Os­car for “L.A. Con­fi­den­tial” and di­rected the psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller “The Hand That Rocks the Cra­dle” and Eminem’s tale of Detroit hip-hop “8 Mile,” has died. He was 71.

Paramedics de­clared Han­son dead at his Hol­ly­wood Hills home late Tues­day af­ter­noon, Los An­ge­les po­lice spokesman Tony Im said. Han­son died of nat­u­ral causes, Im said, but he did not have fur­ther de­tails.

Han­son’s part­ner, Re­becca Yeld­ham, said Wed­nes­day his death was pre­cip­i­tated by a rare ter­mi­nal con­di­tion called Fron­totem­po­ral De­gen­er­a­tion, which is dif­fer­ent from Alzheimer’s. She said a fea­ture of the dis­ease is that suf­fer­ers are un­aware they have the con­di­tion.

“We will be for­ever thank­ful that Cur­tis never suf­fered in the knowl­edge of his ill­ness or prog­no­sis,” Yeld­ham said in a state­ment re­leased by Han­son’s pub­li­cist. “He died peace­fully in his sleep.”

Eminem was among many who worked with Han­son pay­ing trib­ute to him after his death.

“Cur­tis Han­son be­lieved in me and our crazy idea to make a rap bat­tle movie set in Detroit,” Eminem said in a state­ment. “He ba­si­cally made me into an ac­tor for ‘8 Mile.’ I’m lucky I got to know him.”

A na­tive of Reno, Ne­vada, who grew up in Los An­ge­les, Han­son dropped out of high school to work as a pho­tog­ra­pher, writer and ed­i­tor for the mag­a­zine Cin­ema. “It was, in a sense, my film school,” Han­son said in a 2002 in­ter­view with the Guardian.

He be­gan screen­writ­ing and di­rect­ing in the early 1970s, but didn’t see se­ri­ous suc­cess un­til di­rect­ing 1992’s “The Hand That Rocks the Cra­dle.” The film star­ring Re­becca De Mor­nay as a re­venge-seek­ing nanny be­came a ma­jor hit.

Han­son went on to di­rect 1994’s “The River Wild” with Meryl Streep and Kevin Ba­con.

“Great direc­tor. Great man,” Ba­con wrote on Twit­ter Tues­day night. “Rid­ing that river with him was one of the great­est gigs of my life.”

He also was in the direc­tor’s chair for “Won­der Boys” the 2000 film star­ring Tobey Maguire and Michael Dou­glas that is con­sid­ered his best work by many fans and crit­ics.

Maguire said through his pub­li­cist that Han­son “was a gen­er­ous and tal­ented man. I’m grate­ful to have known and worked with him.”

Han­son’s break­through as an ac­claimed film­maker came with 1997’s “L.A. Con­fi­den­tial,” which he cowrote and di­rected.

Han­son was lauded for tak­ing James Ell­roy’s mas­sive novel “L.A. Con­fi­den­tial” about cops, crim­i­nals and tabloid rags in 1950s Los An­ge­les and stream­lin­ing it into a riv­et­ing thriller with­out los­ing its nu­ance.

“All the char­ac­ters and mo­ti­va­tions are com­plex in Cur­tis Han­son’s in­tense, vis­ceral noir,” As­so­ci­ated Press film critic Christy Lemire wrote of the film.

Han­son and co-writer Brian Hel­ge­land won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Han­son was nom­i­nated for best direc­tor and the movie for best pic­ture.

“L.A. Con­fi­den­tial” in­tro­duced Rus­sell Crowe to Amer­i­can au­di­ences and was a ca­reer high point for many of those in­volved, in­clud­ing Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger, who also won an Os­car.

Crowe ad­dressed Han­son di­rectly on Twit­ter Tues­day night, say­ing “Thank you for be­liev­ing in me .... In re­al­ity you made my job a ca­reer.” Spacey said in a state­ment that he “loved Cur­tis for be­liev­ing in me, shap­ing me and al­low­ing me to dress like Dean Martin.”

“We had an ex­tra­or­di­nary en­sem­ble of ac­tors in ‘L.A. Con­fi­den­tial’ who took our lines, gave them emo­tion, hu­mor, life,” Han­son said in his Os­car ac­cep­tance speech.

Han­son ex­plored a dif­fer­ent sort of dark­ness in “8 Mile,” the film star­ring Eminem that ex­plored the gritty streets and trailer parks of Detroit and closely mir­rored the rap­per’s own younger life.

Han­son chose to shoot the movie in the ac­tual burned-out homes and va­cant store­fronts of the real city. “Every­thing about the story felt bet­ter to tell it here in Detroit,” Han­son told the AP in 2002.

Han­son said he had only a pass­ing knowl­edge of hiphop when he en­tered the project, and that he and Eminem “had to con­vince each other” they could both han­dle the movie as each en­vi­sioned it.

“While I was check­ing him out, he was cer­tainly check­ing me out,” Han­son said in the Guardian in­ter­view. “We spent a lot of time to­gether, and we then made a some­what ed­u­cated leap of faith.”

Han­son most re­cently di­rected the 2011 HBO movie on the fi­nan­cial cri­sis “Too Big To Fail” and the 2012 Ger­ard But­ler surf­ing movie “Chas­ing Mav­er­icks.”

Be­sides Yeld­ham and their son, Rio, Han­son is sur­vived by his mother, brother and sis­ter-in-law.

CAR­LOS JASSO — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Chris Han­son, who won an Os­car for the screenplay for “L.A. Con­fi­den­tial” and di­rected Eminem in the movie “8 Mile,” has died. Los An­ge­les po­lice say paramedics called to Han­son’s Hol­ly­wood Hills home found him dead Tues­day. He was 71.

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