'8 Mile,' 'L.A. Confidential' Director Curtis Hanson Dead at 71

Filmmaker honed chops with Roger Corman, oversaw Eminem's acting debut, won Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for seminal Los Angeles noir

Curtis Hanson, the Oscar-winning writer of 'L.A. Confidential' and director of Eminem's '8 Mile' died Tuesday at the age of 71. Credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty

Filmmaker Curtis Hanson, who directed Eminem in his film debut 8 Mile and earned an Oscar for his script for L.A. Confidential, died Tuesday, Variety reports. He was 71.

According to reports, paramedics responded to a call about an unconscious man and Hanson was pronounced dead at the scene. A cause of death has yet to be confirmed, though a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department said Hanson died of "natural causes."

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Hanson began his career as a film journalist, conducting interviews with filmmakers like John Ford and Vincente Minnelli. Following this crash course in filmmaking, Hanson turned to screenwriting, penning his first two films, Dunwich Horror and Sweet Kill (which he also directed) for beloved B-movie producer/director Roger Corman.

Over the next two decades, Hanson turned to directing and helmed an array of films, from the early Tom Cruise comedy, Losin' It, to the Rob Lowe and James Spader crime drama Bad Influence, to the revenge thriller, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

Hanson continued to write as well, and for years he and Brian Helgeland worked on an adaptation of James Ellroy's labyrinthian noir, L.A. Confidential. In a 2001 interview with The A.V. Club, Hanson said, "I had always wanted to tell a story that was set in Los Angeles in the '50s, because that's where I grew up, and it was the city of my childhood memories. I wanted to deal with that and also 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."

Released in 1997, L.A. Confidential was a huge hit and earned Hanson and Helgeland the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Hanson, however, lost out on both Best Director and Best Picture to James Cameron and Titanic.

After L.A. Confidential, Hanson directed Wonder Boys — an adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel of the same name — and followed it with 8 Mile. In a 2002 interview with Rolling Stone, Hanson spoke about working with Eminem, who was not just a first-time actor, but also the inspiration for the film. 

"I knew going into it that he had experience performing and also adopting a character, Slim Shady," Hanson said. "What I was looking for was actually the opposite of that. When you adopt a characterization, that's artificial. You hide behind that. What I needed in this story was the appearance of a complete lack of artifice. I needed the appearance of one more or less exposing himself emotionally. And, so in my getting to know him, I had to assess and then make an educated guess of whether he would be able to do to that and whether he would trust me and the environment I would create enough to do that."

"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."

After 8 Mile, Hanson directed In Your Shoes, Lucky You and Too Big to Fail — HBO's dramatization of the 2008 financial crisis — but while filming the surf movie Chasing Mavericks, he was forced to drop out due to an undisclosed illness. Michael Apted finished the 2012 movie, which now stands as Hanson's last.