Curtis Lee Hanson (March 24, 1945 – September 20, 2016) was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. His directing work included the psychological thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), the neo-noir crime film L.A. Confidential (1997), the comedy Wonder Boys (2000), the hip hop drama 8 Mile (2002), and the romantic comedy-drama In Her Shoes (2005). Hanson won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1998, for co-writing L.A. Confidential with Brian Helgeland.
Hanson was born in Reno, Nevada, and grew up in Los Angeles. He was the son of Beverly June (Curtis), a real estate agent, and Wilbur Hale "Bill" Hanson, a teacher. Hanson dropped out of high school, finding work as a freelance photographer and editor for Cinema magazine. Hanson began screenwriting in 1970, when he co-wrote The Dunwich Horror, a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story. Hanson wrote and directed his next feature Sweet Kill in 1973, then in 1978 wrote and produced The Silent Partner, starring Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer.
From the early 1980s into 1990s, Hanson directed a string of comedies and dramas. He did thrillers, too: many of them deal with people who lose their sense of control or security when facing danger or under threat of death. Some, like the financial executive in Bad Influence and the police officers in L.A. Confidential, unexpectedly walk into violence and disaster.
In the 1990s, Hanson found box-office success with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild, and received significant critical acclaim with his 1997 film L.A. Confidential, an adaptation of the James Ellroy novel. The film was nominated for 9 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 works included In Her Shoes, Wonder Boys, 8 Mile, and Lucky You. Hanson said that he was heavily influenced by the directors Alfred Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray. In an interview with the New York Times in 2000, Hanson stated that Ray's film In a Lonely Place was among many that he watched in preparation for the filming of L.A. Confidential.
In 8 Mile, Kim Basinger's character watches Elia Kazan's Pinky on television. The film is about a mixed-race girl who passes as white; the reference to it in Hanson’s film functions as an homage to the themes of racial mixing and boundary-crossing that are features of much of his work.
In 2011, Hanson made Too Big to Fail, based on the 2009 Andrew Ross Sorkin book of the same name about the beginnings of the financial crisis of 2007–2010. The film, produced for HBO, featured among its all-star cast William Hurt as Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson, and Cynthia Nixon as his liaison to the press; James Woods as Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers; and Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke.
His last film was Chasing Mavericks in 2012, but he was unable to finish the film due to ill health. Michael Apted replaced him as director during the final days of shooting. Hanson later retired from film work and was reported to have frontotemporal dementia. He died of natural causes at his Hollywood Hills home at the age of 71.