Sunday, October 31, 2010

George Hickenlooper

On Saturday a good man, a friend and an unusually talented independent American filmmaker, George Hickenlooper, was found dead in a Denver hotel room, where he had just arrived from yet another successful pre-release event for his career-changing feature, Casino Jack. George was in Denver to be with his brother, John, who is running for Governor of Colorado. George was 47 years old and leaves behind his wife and young son.

George's untimely death is tragic at so many levels, both personal and professional, and his Facebook page has literally hundreds of wallposts from friends from all over. As a filmmaker he first made his name with the Emmy Award-winning Hearts of Darkness documentary taken from Eleanor Coppola's Apocalypse Now behind the scenes footage, and he was known for The Man from Elysian Fields (directing James Coburn, Anjelica Huston and, for God's sake, Mick Jagger, among others) and Factory Girl (a resonant vision of the 1960's Andy Warhol) along with his extraordinary series of black and white Web videos with major actors in support of the Writer's Strike several years ago.

Casino Jack, which I saw with George by his invitation at a private screening at CAA along with several other excellent filmmakers, is brilliant in being both raucously funny and a reliable telling of a true story, how Jack Abramoff fed the Bush-era GOP with scandalously dirty money. During the screening George would occasionally interject, to our laughter of disbelief, "That really happened." So one tragic aspect of this loss is that he died on the eve of his greatest triumph, an actor's director in an age of special effects directors, and there's no telling what he might have achieved with his new-found cachet.

It's a personal loss, moreso for friends of mine who have known George longer, but nonetheless as someone who was always engaging, personally solicitous and ever-ready to help with a needed connection or advice. And, of course, the greatest loss of all for his family, particularly his boy.

If you want to know what people who worked with him, received encouragement from him, sparred with him on the Web (where he was a participant in cinematic discussions) or simply knew him from his work or writing, check out these comments on Deadline and Hollywood Elsewhere. And here's George in his own words from Hollywood Elsewhere as well.

Rest in Peace, George. We lost you too soon.


WWB said...

Haven't seen Casino Jack yet—almost saw it at Sundance last year—but Hearts of Darkness is a longtime favorite. In fact, I was a fan of the documentary before I was a fan of Apocalypse Now.

Anonymous said...

Very sad news indeed.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said Netter. Sorry about your friend and mentor.