8 Mile director Curtis Hanson has died at the age of 71. He was found dead at his Hollywood home, passing away due to natural causes. Retiring in recent years due to developing Frontotemporal Degeneration, his last remaining work was Chasing Mavericks, a biopic of American surfer Jay Moriarity, which due to health complications, had to be completed by Michael Apted.
Born in Reno, Nevada in 1945, Hanson was a high school dropout who first made his name freelancing for Cinema magazine. Falling under the expert coaching of b-movie legends Roger Corman and Sam Fuller, he made his name writing screenplays for thrillers such as the supernatural The Dunwich Horror and the racial allegory White Dog. With an expert understanding of how violence can be used to enhance the themes of a movie, he finally got his big Hollywood break with The Hand The Rocks The Cradle, a chilling revenge tale that was praised for its complex psychology. Yet it was with L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile that he wrote his name in the annals of film canon:
L.A. Confidential is generally considered Hanson's best work, and one of the best films about tinseltown ever made, ranking in a 2008 L.A. times poll as the best film about L.A. in the past twenty-five years. An investigation of West Coast corruption only bettered by Chinatown, it takes three very different cops — played by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce — and throws them into a world where nothing is as it seems. The result was both a crowd-pleaser and a critical darling, nominated for nine Academy Awards.
Hanson said that this film was the most personal, largely because he grew in L.A. in the 50s:
“I wanted to... pursue this theme that interested me, which is the difference between illusion and reality, the way people and things appear to be versus how they really are. And Hollywood, of course, is the city of illusion. So that was near and dear to me, and extremely personal.”
A rags-to-riches rap story anchored by a brilliant semi-autobiographical performance by Marshall Mathers (Eminem), 8 Mile was an expert depiction of the down-and-out white working class. To add to the authenticity of the film, he chose to shoot in the actually dilapidated Detroit. In the process he made Eminem a movie star, even if it remains his only true dramatic performance, while "Lose Yourself" remains the only rap song to have ever won Best Original Song. In an interview for the Guardian, he explains how he noticed Eminem's star quality:
"I realised he has this thing about his eyes, whether you call it charisma or 'watchability', this thing that draws you in and makes you feel that you can see this person's emotions and in some cases feel them yourself. It is the quality that movie stars have."
Check out the greatest rap battle of all time below:
Tributes From The Stars
Many of his fellow co-workers have sent their touching tributes. Russell Crowe — who got his big break on L.A. Confidential — wrote on Twitter that he was:
Kevin Bacon, who appeared in Hanson's action-adventure film The River Wild, also wrote:
In a statement for Billboard, Eminem praised his vision:
"Curtis Hanson believed in me and our crazy idea to make a rap battle movie set in Detroit. He basically made me into an actor for 8 Mile. I'm lucky I got to know him."
A man who expertly knew how to get the best out of actors and source material, Hanson will be sorely missed.
What Was Your Favourite Curtis Hanson Film?