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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Jan. 13, 2005 | 12:01 AM

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An interview with Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, L.A. Confidential)

THE MOVIE THAT INSPIRED ME series at the UCLA Film Archive

May 15, 22 and 29 and June 5, 2003
THE MOVIE THAT INSPIRED ME returns for the fourth year with screenwriter-director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, Wonder Boys, L.A. Confidential) hosting.  The brainchild of screenwriter-director Hanson, who is also Honorary Chairman of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, THE MOVIE THAT INSPIRED ME debuted to great success in 1999.  The series pairs film artists with their pick of a movie that significantly influenced their creative lives.  Each evening begins with a screening of the selected movie followed by an informal conversation with the artist moderated by Mr. Hanson.  After this interview there is a schedule listed for this series.  Don?t miss it!

In doing this interview, FILMRADAR wanted to turn the spotlight on Curtis Hanson to find out what films have influenced and inspired him.  We’d like to extend a special thanks to Kelly Graml and Amro for their assistance. 
Now ladies and gentleman: 

An Interview with Curtis Hanson (May 13, 2003) by Karie Bible
What are the films that influenced you and made you fall in love with movies?
There were a lot of movies that I was very taken with as a kid.  I was also a reader and I loved the novelists who were great storytellers as well. I can?t narrow it down to one or two.  I could if I was being a guest at ?The Movies That Inspired Me? but since I?m the host, I don?t have to.  It?s one of those things where the more I knew about movies and came to understand that there was somebody behind the camera in addition to the people that were in front of the camera, that there was a storyteller behind the camera?.the more intrigued I became about that.  The more I wanted to know.  Eventually out of that came my desire to be both a screenwriter and a director.  In terms of the movies that helped me understand that?..they were the movies of Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Sam Fuller, Don Siegel.  All movies that I was exposed to at an age of let?s say 12-15 and many more, John Ford of course.  There are no real surprises on the list.  Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, I saw a lot of movies growing up and still do.  I love seeing movies on the big screen as opposed to television or tape or DVD, which is one of the things I like about what does.  You call attention to the opportunities we have in Los Angeles to do that very thing.  Fortunately in Los Angeles between The UCLA Archive, the county museum, the Cinematheque, and New Beverly and revivals that happen at other theatres?..we have a pretty large menu to choose from every week and every month.
Are there any specific films that you remember as a child that you think back on?
Many. Take a picture like She Wore A Yellow Ribbon as an example.  It was a picture that I really liked as a kid and it?s so great to re-see those movies like that as an adult and realize that as a kid you had good taste.  (Laughs)  It?s the same with the Hitchcock movies or the Fritz Lang movies like Woman In The Window or Scarlet Street.  Those movies knocked me out as a kid and I saw them several times, and you see them again and you still appreciate what you appreciated as a kid?.. one hopes you haven?t lost touch with that and you appreciate them on a whole other level the same way you do if you go back and read the good books that you read as a kid. 
Tell me about how your love of film and your influences impact your work?  Clearly you know your noir from having done L.A. Confidential, and I read that you made Eminem watch James Dean films before doing 8 Mile?
I would disagree with both things.  The second one is not accurate.  I didn?t make him watch anything, and in fact he had never seen James Dean.  Somehow that got misreported.  What I did was the day before we started shooting the film, I gave him as a good luck present copies of some movies that contained the debut performances of some really memorable screen actors.  I wanted to show him what the possibilities were for someone who had never done it before.  Included among those movies was East of Eden starring James Dean.  Among them also: Warren Beatty in Splendor In The Grass, Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and Montgomery Clift in Red River.  It was a good luck thing.  I wasn?t saying watch these and imitate this.  I would never do that with an actor.  What I do though, to get back to the first part of your question, is that on each picture that I direct, as my key collaborators come on board, I have a little film series where I show a few movies that thematically are relevant to me or emotionally relevant to me in terms of the movie that we?re about to do. Their subject matter is often very different and again it is not to imitate these movies, but it?s just to help get a dialogue going between not only me and my collaborators but also among them because very often they don?t know each other. I do that on each picture drawing from the movies I?ve known and liked.  As far as L.A. Confidential, you made a reference that I ?know my noir.?  I feel I do but in truth in making that movie I was trying to avoid any kind of homage to film noir.  As a way to illustrate that, the first shot that I specifically conceived when Brian (Helgeland) and I were writing the script was the shot where Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd are in a scene from This Gun For Hire and the camera pulls back and Kim Basinger playing Lynn Bracken is in the foreground dressed and with her hair looking a lot like Veronica Lake.  The point that I was making was that that up there on the screen is film noir-it?s a style, an artifice that was popular in the 1940s for a variety of reasons.  In the foreground is our story and a character who recognizes the artificiality in that and is in fact selling that artificiality to her clients.  Our story is taking place in a different world.  What I brought to that project was not really my knowledge of film noir, it was my knowledge of L.A. having grown up here and that was my driving impulse.  I wanted to tell a story that dealt with the Los Angeles of my childhood memories.
Does your taste in film run the gamut?  Do you have one genre or era you gravitate to?
No, it pretty much runs the gamut.  I love the best of the new movies, foreign films, and silent films.  I enjoy them all.  One of the things I really enjoy about doing this series is that it gives me an opportunity to meet, very often for the first time, artists who work in film and talk with them about movies that they love.

Is that what inspired you to want to do the series?
I looked at it in two ways.  I thought it would be a very entertaining thing to do for the audience including myself among them.  I love talking about movies, and talking with people who also love them, and listening to people talk about movies.  This was an opportunity to bring that all together.  Also, it was an opportunity to bring people into a knowledge of what the UCLA Film Archive is all about.  Part of what it?s about is preserving film and then another part is about exhibiting film.  It doesn?t do any good to preserve movies if you don?t make them accessible.  This series brings the artists themselves into the life of the Archive and it also brings in the fans of the particular artists.  When you have a guest like say Elmer Bernstein, the people that spark to that and are interested in seeing and hearing him might be different than the people who respond to Drew Barrymore.  The common denominator obviously is film, but exposes different types of film lovers to the Archive and to different kinds of movies too.  That?s one of the most rewarding parts.  I remember the night Robert Downey Jr. was there and we were showing a silent movie.  Before the movie I asked how many of the people in the audience had seen a silent movie projected in a theatre and over half of them had not.  Robert got such a kick out of that, because he felt like he was exposing these people that came out of interest in him to something that he loves.  He was just very proud to be the intermediary in that process. 
Schedule for THE MOVIE THAT INSPIRED ME series 2003
THURSDAY, MAY 15 at 7:30 p.m.
*IN PERSON:  Screenwriter-director Christopher Nolan (Momento, Insomnia)
BLADE RUNNER  (*A rare screening of the original version!) (1982)  Directed by Ridley Scott Director Ridley Scott’s future noir vision of urban sprawl, genetic engineering and the enduring mystery of the human soul has become one of the most influential science fiction films of all time .  As Deckard, a Los Angeles detective circa 2019, Harrison Ford confronts the nature and meaning of his own existence when he’s assigned to hunt down a band of renegade cyborgs lead by Rutger Hauer who are themselves searching for answers from their own corporate maker.  For the film’s original release in 1982, producer Bud Yorkin had Scott re-edit the film and add an explanatory voice-over and happy ending.  Since Scott released his Director’s Cut in 1992, the original release version has been discontinued on home video and has rarely screened in public.
Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Producer:  Michael Deeley.  Screenplay:  Hampton Fancher, Jordan Cronenweth.  Editor:  Terry Rawlings.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos .  35mm, 118 min.

THURSDAY, MAY 22 at 7:30 p.m.
*IN PERSON:  Screenwriter-director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Safe)
MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)  Directed by John Schlesinger An itinerant young man from a small Southern town comes to New York and becomes a male prostitute. James Leo Herlihy’s novel provided the raw (in every sense of the word) material for this film about outcasts and the downtrodden. British director Schlesinger (DARLING, BILLY LIAR) brings the European new wave stateside, updating the classic melodramatic plot of the innocent youth from the country coming to grief in the big city by introducing into it the dislocations of the rapid social change of the late 1960s.

Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy.  Producer:  Jerome Hellman. Screenplay: Waldo Salt.  Cinematographer:  Adam Holender.  Editor:  Hugh A. Robertson.  Cast:  Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Brenda Vaccaro, Sylvia Miles.  35mm, 113 min.

THURSDAY, MAY 29 at 7:30 p.m.
*IN-PERSON:  Composer Elmer Bernstein (The Grifters, Sweet Smell of Success)  
ALEXANDER NEVSKY (1938)  Directed by Sergei Eisenstein (*With a film score by the legendary Sergei Prokofiev!) Highlights of the film include its brilliant pageantry, ground-breaking use of sound, Prokofiev score and a striking battle scene on a sea of ice.  It was based on the tale of one of Russia’s great heroes, the 13th century warrior prince popularly known as Alexander Nevsky.  It was also so prescient (in depicting everything from the shape of German helmets to the manner of the Germans’ defeat by the long Russian winter) that when the non-aggression pact was signed with Hitler in 1939, the film was withdrawn from exhibition as being too anti-German.  35mm, 107 min.

THURSDAY, JUNE 5 at 7:30 p.m.
* IN-PERSON:  Author-actor Carrie Fisher (Star Wars, Postcards From The Edge)

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945)  Directed by Elia Kazan Kazan’s debut film as a Hollywood director is this sensitive adaptation of Betty Smith’s bestselling novel about a poor Irish-American family living in Brooklyn in the early years of the century.  Kazan invested the studio sets and potentially sentimental story with a welcome realism, an approach honed by his years with the socially conscious Group Theatre and his previous film experience directing the documentaries PEOPLE OF THE CUMBERLAND (1937) and IT1S UP TO YOU (1941).  His skill with actors, which had already made him a leading Broadway director, resulted in an Oscar for James Dunn’s moving performance as the family’s alcoholic father, and a special, miniature statuette for Peggy Ann Garner as outstanding child actress of 1945.
Producer: Louis D. Lighton.  Screenplay: Tess Slesinger, Frank Davis.  Based on the novel by Betty Smith.  Cinematography: Leon Shamroy.  Editor: Dorothy Spencer.  With: Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, James Dunn, Lloyd Nolan.  35 mm, nitrate, 128 min.

——————————————————————————————————Previous THE MOVIE THAT INSPIRED ME guests and their respective film choices have included: editor Dede Allen (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), actor-producer Drew Barrymore (Annie Hall), screenwriter- director-producer Michael Mann (Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), actor Robert Downey Jr. (The Kid), cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (My Name Is Ivan), screenwriter- director-producer James L. Brooks (All That Jazz), director Sam Raimi (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (What Happened Was…), production designer Jeannine Oppewall (Beauty and the Beast), actor Diane Keaton (Stagecoach) and actor-director Sean Penn (Minnie and Moskowitz).

——————————————————————————————Venue: the James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall, located on the northeast corner of the UCLA Westwood campus, near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Hilgard Avenue.
Admission:  advance tickets for all four THE MOVIE THAT INSPIRED ME programs will be available at the box office at each screening in the series, subject to availability.  Otherwise, tickets are available at the theater one hour before showtime.  Tickets are $7 general, $5 students, seniors and UCLA Alumni Association members with ID. 
Parking: available adjacent to the James Bridges Theater in Lot 3 for $7. 
Info:  310.206.FILM / UCLA