Curtis Lee Hanson was born in Reno, Nevada on, March 24, 1945 and grew up in Los Angeles. He was the son of Beverly June and Wilbur Hale. Hanson dropped out of high school, finding work as a freelance photographer and editor for Cinema magazine.
Hanson's first film was an 8mm movie he made in the sixties with his buddy, Willard Huyck. 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 as well. His next major feature directorial job was “The Bedroom Window”, a Hitchcock-inspired romantic thriller about a man who gets involved with a mysterious woman who turns his life upside down. Hanson said in an interview that he was heavily influenced by the directors Alfred Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray. In the 1990s, Hanson found box-office success with “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and “The River Wild”. His most successful project was “L.A. Confidential”, which he produced and co-wrote, based on the epic crime novel by James Ellroy. Ironically, the option for “L.A. Confidential” got tossed around Warner Bros. offices for almost eight years, and was almost developed as a miniseries, but in 1997 it was finally made into a feature which Hanson directed.
Taking a break from films, in 1999 he became the first chairman of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Soon he re-emerged with “Wonder Boys”, a comedy about a middle-aged professor experiencing problems in both his personal and professional life and a young man obsessed with finding a jacket that belonged to Marilyn Monroe. However, he had an instant box office success with his film in which he directed the rapper Eminem in “8 Mile”.
Hanson later retired from film work and was reported to have frontotemporal dementia. He died of natural causes at his Hollywood Hills home, aged 71.