Arts + Culture

A memorial tribute to filmmaker Curtis Hanson

Hanson was honorary chairman of UCLA Film and Television Archive

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Curtis Hanson and David Fincher
UCLA

Curtis Hanson, left, interviews director and producer David Fincher ("The Social Network" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," among others) in 2010 for "The Movies that Inspired Me." Fincher said he drew inspiration from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

UCLA Film and Television Archive recently paid tribute to filmmaker Curtis Hanson, who became honorary chairman of the archive in 1999 and the inspiration behind one of its best-remembered series, "The Movie that Inspired Me," a program that he personally curated and hosted. He also served on the Executive Board of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Hanson, 71, died Sept. 20 after battling frontotemporal degeneration, a brain disorder.

“Curtis Hanson was a thoughtful and versatile filmmaker, as well as a powerful advocate for film preservation,” said Jan-Christopher Horak, director of UCLA Film and Television Archive. “His loss will be felt keenly by many in the film community on both a personal and professional level.”

In the 1990s, Curtis rose to prominence with an eclectic slate of films, including "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," "The River Wild," and his greatest critical success, "L.A. Confidential," which was nominated for nine Academy Awards and named to the National Film Registry in 2015. More recently, Hanson directed and produced "Wonder Boys," "8 Mile" and "In Her Shoes." He also portrayed Meryl Streep’s husband in "Adaptation."

Hanson, a devoted cinephile, could be seen at screenings across the city, including at many of the archive’s film events. His work often referenced other films or the cinematic experience. 

“It was the movies that brought me to UCLA, old ones, new ones, movies from Hollywood and from around the world, movies that I could not see anywhere else,” said Hanson in 2002. “The films exhibited are the public face of the archive, and the movie lovers of Los Angeles are lucky to have it.”

In the late 1990s, Hanson took on a more formal role with the archive, accepting the position of honorary chairman in January 1999.  Hanson served as a passionate and committed champion of film preservation, as well as a tireless advocate for the archive’s mission of exhibition and research.

“Curtis was a unique individual who was both an accomplished film artist and someone who had a deep and profound respect for the filmmakers who came before him,” said Robert Rosen, former director of UCLA Film and Television Archive. “His vast knowledge of cinema’s past was matched only by his commitment to its future.”

For the archive series that was his brainchild, "The Movie That Inspired Me," Hanson invited leading artists from all areas of filmmaking to share with an audience not their favorite film, or what they considered the greatest film, but instead a film that directly influenced their creative lives.

“The idea grew out of loving movies and talking about them with other people who love movies,” said Hanson in 2002. “And the films that are the most fun to talk about are not necessarily the classics, but those that had a personal impact on people when they saw them.”

"The Movie That Inspired Me" was tailor-made for Hanson and drew upon his unique set of talents and interests — an impressive knowledge of film history, prodigious yet effortless interview skills, experience behind the camera and, above all, an irrepressible curiosity — to create unforgettable conversations. Among the Hollywood A-listers who conversed with Hanson about the films that moved them were Diane Keaton, Christopher Nolan, Kathryn Bigelow, Drew Barrymore, Michael Mann, Ray Harryhausen, David Fincher and Todd Haynes.

Hanson was the first recipient of the Film Preservation Award, bestowed by the Film Foundation and the Directors Guild of America in 2003. He served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

To read the archive's complete tribute and find out more about Hanson, go here. Listen to an interview with Hanson on KCRW. You can also read this New York Times obituary and this Q&A with Hanson in UCLA Magazine.

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