Date of Birth: March 24, 1945
Born in Reno, Nevada, Hanson dropped out of high school to start Cinema magazine. The
publication, which was owned by his uncle, once ran an important essay on film noir
written by Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader. After years of editing and taking photographs
for Cinema magazine, Hanson turned to screenwriting and directing.
Hanson's first film was an 8mm movie he made in the sixties with his buddy, American
Graffiti writer Willard Huyck.
In 1978 he wrote the screenplay for the multiple award-winning Canadian feature The Silent
Partner. In 1982, he co-wrote with the late director Samuel Fuller the screenplay for
Fuller's White Dog, and one year later co-wrote the screenplay for Carroll Ballard's Never
Cry Wolf. Hanson then produced a kids' adventure, The Little Dragons in 1980, followed by
a 1983 teen sex comedy called Losin' It, featuring a young Tom Cruise.
His next major feature directorial job was The Bedroom Window (1987), a Hitchcock-inspired
romantic thriller about a man (Steve Guttenberg) who gets involved with a mysterious woman
(Isabelle Huppert) who turns his life upside down. Hanson's next film, 1990's Bad Influence,
was also laden with Hitchcock influences, particularly those of Strangers on a Train. The
story of an outwardly successful but inwardly faltering Los Angeles marketing analyst (James
Spader), who falls under the spell of a charming but nefarious drifter (Rob Lowe), was a
moderate success, both critically and financially.
By far his most successful project to date 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 kicked 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. In addition to winning
the 1997 Academy Award for Best Screenplay, the film won the Best Adapted Screenplay award
from the Writers' Guild of America as well as Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay
awards from such associations as the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film
Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. In fact, it was the first picture ever to
win Best Picture and Best Director from every major critics' organization.
Taking a break from film, in 1999 he became the first chairman of the UCLA Film and Television
The director didn't make his next film until three years later, when he re-emerged with Wonder Boys, a comedy about a middle-aged professor (Michael Douglas) experiencing problems in both his personal and professional life and a young man (Tobey Maguire) obsessed with finding a jacket that belonged to Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately, the film did not do well at the box office.
However, he had a box office success with his next film when he directed Eminem in 8 Mile (2002). His next film, the romantic drama Lucky You (2007), starring Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana, was a box office failure.
Hanson is currently at work on the feature Too Big to Fail, starring Topher Grace, Billy Crudup and William Hurt, which is set for a 2012 release.