UCLA Confidential


By Anne Burke

Published Jan 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Filmmaker Curtis Hanson talks to UCLA Magazine about his life, his career, and his work as honorary chairman of the UCLA Film & Television Archive

Tell us about your background.

Both sides of my family were Angelinos. My parents met at Hollywood High. As it happened, they were living in Reno when I was born because my father was a conscientious objector. Instead of sending him to jail, they had him working on a construction crew, doing road repair. But as soon as the war ended, they came back to Los Angeles. My father became a schoolteacher, first at the grammar school level and then junior high. My mom had a dress shop when they were young, and that helped them buy the house they eventually bought in Tarzana. Neither of my parents was involved in the movie business but my mother was a big movie fan and we went to a lot of movies when I was a kid. I loved books, too. I was a big reader and if there were no movies, I probably would have aspired to be a novelist.

At what age did you start going to the movies?

I was literally a baby. My mother used to take me. There were certain theaters in Los Angeles that had what they called a baby room, which was at the back of the theater. It was a room where mothers or fathers could go with babies and it had a big glass window, so the babies could cry without bothering everybody (smiles). They had one down at what used to be the Fox Theater on Venice Boulevard, and the Wiltern Theater had one. It’s an incredibly civilized idea when you think about it.

What about as an adult?

I used to go to lots and lots of movies at these semi off-the-beaten-track kinds of screenings. One of the familiar faces was this projectionist who collected prints and used to show movies at his apartment every so often. An apartment stacked with movie magazines and you literally sat on the floor or on film cans.

Did Martin Scorsese really show up once?

One night the movie was None Shall Escape, directed by André de Toth. It was, at that time, a picture that was so difficult to see that André de Toth came! Scorsese had made at least a couple of movies, so we all knew who he was. We all sat around and talked about None Shall Escape and other movies. A great night.