By Robyn Collins
Curtis Hanson, who directed the Eminem biopic 8 Mile, died of “natural causes” Tuesday at his Hollywood Hills home. He was 71.
Eminem remembers the Oscar winner fondly saying, “Curtis Hanson believed in me and our crazy idea to make a rap battle movie set in Detroit. He basically made me into an actor for 8 Mile. I’m lucky I got to know him,” he told Billboard.
In a 2002 interview with Rolling Stone, Hanson, who won a screenwriting Oscar for L.A. Confidential and directed the psychological thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, spoke about working with Eminem.
“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.”
The director continued, “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.”
Hanson also explained that he didn’t want 8 Mile to get pigeonholed as only a “rap movie.” “Hip-hop movies usually illustrate the lyrics of certain kinds of hip-hop songs,” he said. “You have a lot of guns, you have a lot of drugs and so forth. Our story is about hip-hop fans. They don’t live the life that is depicted in hip-hop lyrics, but they identify of the emotion of those lyrics.”
In another interview with Rolling Stone, Hanson said Eminem is “an extraordinarily gifted artist. If Internet piracy kills the music business, Marshall Mathers need not worry. He’ll have another career.”