Hickenlooper Is Gone

Denver Post political editor Curtis Hubbard reported about 15 minutes ago that director George Hickenlooper, director of the forthcoming Casino Jack and co-director of the superb documentary Hearts of Darkness (as well as the very fine Factory Girl and The Mayor of Sunset Strip), was found dead this morning at age 47.

I considered George to be almost a personal friend. We spoke to each other often, trusted each other and discussed issues from time to time. The HE community knows how George has often posted comments about this and that, particularly when I reported a couple of months ago about initial information put out by Lionsgate giving Eleanor Coppola possessory credit on Hearts of Darkness, which obviously implied that she directed it. She did not.

Hubbard reports that Hickenlooper “was in Denver to prepare for the upcoming premiere of his latest film, Casino Jack, at the Starz Denver Film Festival.

“[Denver Mayor] John Hickenlooper has a bit part in his cousin’s latest movie, and the pair were scheduled to attend the premiere together Thursday night at the film festival. Casino Jack features Kevin Spacey as disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“‘Shock and sadness do not begin to describe our emotions…we are devastated,’ John Hickenlooper said in a statement. ‘George had immense creative talents and cinematic gifts, but he was so much more than that to us and all his family.

“‘His passion for life, zeal for people and unquenchable curiosity enriched everyone who had the fortune to know him. We will miss his sense of humor, his warm character and the avid encouragement he gave anyone around him. Our hearts go out to his wife, Suzanne, and his son, Charles.’

“George Hickenlooper was born on May 25, 1963, in St. Louis, Mo. He graduated from Yale University in 1986 and went on to produce films that included The Mayor of Sunset Strip (2003).

In 2008, George Hickenlooper followed his cousin throughout the Democratic National Convention, producing the documentary Hick Town.

“A release from the mayor’s office said George Hickenlooper appears to have died from natural causes. No foul play is suspected. Denver police will conduct a death investigation, per regular protocol.”

47 is awfully damn young to check out like that. George was heavyish but more in a stocky-ish sense than what you might call overweight. This is a real shocker.

The news was initially tweeted by Adam Kelly (adzfilmmaker) and producer Dana Brunetti. And then Brunetti pulled his tweet. It was touch and go about whether the news was true, and then Hubbard’s story appeared on the Denver Post site at 3:26 pm Mountain time.

  • Cobraverde

    I remember reading his comments on HE about the hassle he had with Brittany Murphy’s late husband when he was preparing Factory Girl. Christ, life is ruthless.

  • Terry McCarty

    Really a shock to find this out. A talented filmmaker who’ll be missed.

  • John Candy’s Ghost

    Such a shock. My heart goes out to his family.

  • lazarus

    Wow. Feels weird to lose one of our own.

    Nice, well-spoken guy who always seemed to rise above the petty insults, some of which were thrown his way.

    Made one of the favorite cinephile documentaries, and I also enjoyed his film The Man From Elysian Fields.

    Sad day.

  • longrunner

    I will miss him around here and I am sorry that there will be no more of his films. What a shame.

  • George Prager

    Holy crap! I can’t believe this! I got into it with him during the Iraq surge days and wrote some things that I regret to this day. But he responded gently and without anger. A class act and a true gentleman. He will be missed.

    R.I.P. Hickenlooper.

  • Dan Revill

    Read this a half hour ago or so. Really sad loss to this community. I enjoyed reading his thoughts.

  • Ray DeRousse

    Oh no.

    He promised so much and delivered, and he did so with (as lazarus and George both mention) admirable class. What a loss in the film community!

  • qwiggles

    Shit. Strange/sad.

  • Daviddb

    I had George on my radio show re: Factory girl and I know several people who worked with him…sad, so sad. He was also pivotal during the Writer’s Guild strike making those short films that were funny and informative. This is shocking and yet another reminder to cherish every day folks.

  • Kakihara

    Damn, poor guy. He seemed like a cool HE-dweller, too. R.I.P.

  • Travis Crabtree

    I am absolutely dumbfounded. I just recently talked to him, though we weren’t really close. Complete shock.

    This is just shocking.

    Rest in peace.

  • ModernLifeIsRubbish

    Wow. =(

    Terrible, terrible news. He was a very gifted filmmaker.

  • Robert Cashill

    Stunned by this news. A blow to the HE community indeed; he was always good for an informative tidbit, a laugh, or a little sparring. Just terrible.

  • alynch

    Real shame. He made several good films and clearly had the potential to eventually make a great one. Reading about people in their forties dying of natural causes never fails to scare the shit out of me.

  • streeter

    Shocking, very sad.

    Wells, last week there was an EW interview with FFC where he blamed the HoD team for leaking the AN workprint.

    I look forward to Casino Jack but so sad that that will be his last.

  • Pinko Punko

    This is terribly sad.

  • Manitoba

    What sad news. I can still remember George Hickenlooper’s warm HE post commenting on the death of actor Maury Chaykin,who plays Big Tony in “Casino Jack.”My condolences to his wonderful family. Some days life seems so unfair.

  • CMed1

    RIP, Hickenlooper.

  • aris

    Unbelievable and awful. RIP George…

  • Ponderer

    I’m in complete shock. Like everyone else, I thought his presence here was one of the great things about being a frequent visitor to HE.

    I got to talk with George briefly after I won the Factory Girl poster contest a few years ago; he couldn’t have been nicer or more encouraging. What a goddamn shame. 46. Fuck’s sake.

  • LexG

    Always liked reading his comments here– very direct, honest, heartfelt and interesting. One time he said something nice about something I’d put up, one of my silly cartoon videos I think, and I was sincerely flattered. Always thought it was great in general that a good director with a solid career still liked kicking it around with this motley crew, be it about his own projects or movies in general or things he felt passionately about.


  • sumo-pop

    What a damn shame. We recently became “friends” on Facebook. Hearts of Darkness is the best doc about making a movie I have ever seen. If that were the only thing he did (which it wasn’t), it would be enough. What a shame.

  • Krillian

    Very sad.

  • Chicago48

    [Fixed — thanks!]

  • matt

    I originally discovered Hollywood Elsewhere when I was working on Factory Girl, and George had used my computer to go on the internet – he had left the window open, and I was immediately hooked on the site. He really loved movies, and he will definitely be missed.

  • K. Bowen


    I remember his defense of The Blind Side. I loved his story about how he wanted Factory Girl to end – with Sienna Miller running drugged out to Central Park, finding a police horse, and stroking it on the nose, liked she had done at Warhol’s apartment.

    Just wow.

  • kingofnails

    Wow, so very sad. Always enjoyed reading him on here, and he will truly be missed. What else can be said?

  • hiviper

    wow – he pretty was much a semi-regular here and I’ll miss his posts. That’s much too early to check out and I’m sure he had a lot more to say artistically and in other ways.

    RIP, he left a mark and *will* be remembered.

  • Lee

    I remember him and I got into an argument on here over Sienna Miller and her acting skills, when we actually were agreeing with each other. He apologized and blamed his Irish temper, and said he’d buy a beer for me. I told him the same. I’ll have one for ya tonight, George.

  • Thx-1139

    A stunning, unexpected loss. I’d been hoping he would break out with ‘Casino Jack’ the way Paul Haggis did with ‘Crash’ — terrific talent.

  • Eloi Wrath

    Very sad news. I didn’t really ever directly interact with him on these boards, but always enjoyed it when he commented from time to time as he was full of interesting insider information and good stories from the industry. Incredibly young age to die, and seems like he was right in the middle of a particularly active time in terms of travelling the country and promoting his recent film. Bizarre that it was all cut so short so suddenly.

    Condolences to all that knew him. Very sad story.

  • Noiresque

    His posts revealed someone with a sense of honesty, a sense of humour about himself and the ability to express himself with a lack of bullshit and ego. Rare in the media industry, rare in the film industry.

    Treasure each moment, people.

    Vale, George.

  • JD

    I remember seeing Man From Elysian Fields at TIFF in 2001 and thinking he might be on the verge of a breakthrough. Sadly, that never really happened, but he managed to sustain an indie filmmaking career for far longer than most. He always struck me as a real cinephile filmmaker, which kept him in my good books, even when his politics (and films) got a little dicey. He will be missed.

  • A loss especially felt here. Jeff, we the readers certainly felt like he was your friend, and maybe ours just a little bit.

    Never saw many of his movies, but was hoping he’d make many more. RIP.

  • the sordid sentinel

    Like others in this thread I always enjoyed his coments here. Very sad. WAY too young to pass on. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  • JapAdapters

    I read this headline and feel like I just got punched in the stomach. RIP.

  • Parris Mitchell

    This is news awful enough even to rouse long time lurkers like me. Such a talented, likeable man.

    Rest in peace George.

  • algarciashead

    the hell? Very sad to hear this.

  • Gaydos

    Talented, smart, determined and reaching to make something special each time up to bat. Saw him at the Hollywood Awards Monday night and planned to catch up on each other’s films.

    Beyond sad and such a strange, but slightly uplifting feeling to read the comments here as he was part of the community Jeff has created here.

    And we all try our best to carry on, this little tribe of people who care about movies, even if we can’t agree on what that means. As it should be…


  • Josh Massey

    I first saw the news on Twitter, and prayed like hell it was, somehow, unbelievably, another filmmaker named Hickenlooper. God, he was the second director I ever struck up an e-mail conversation with – after Ted Demme. So sad.

  • citizenmilton

    Terrible loss.

    “Hearts of Darkness” is one of the finest investigations into the creative process, in any medium.

    Will be missed on screen, and in the comments section.

  • Markj74

    He was always an astute and entertaining presence here on HE, and gave us one of the greatest ‘making of’ docs – one so good it actually became a great film in it’s own right.

    Thanks for everything George.

  • This news has knocked me for six a little.

    Never met George, never spoke to him, never exchanged words on HE; George had absolutely no idea who I am.

    But I followed his posts and I don’t think I’m the only one whose ears perked up every time they saw a comment under “Hickenlooper.”

    You can tell a lot about a person just by their words, written or otherwise. And George’s words on here spoke volumes. Reading the above comments makes that clear.

    I’m sad he’s gone. That’s all I’ve got…

    [Now is perhaps not the time for this, but I’ll say it anyway. I think Jeff can hold his head high for the honest way he flew the Hickenlooper flag on the HEARTS OF DARKNESS crediting. Not that Hickenlooper seemed like a needy person, but Jeff was a real confederate to George when his work needed someone to speak up for it, and when it would have been easier to ignore the matter or acquiesce to The Man–as I’m sure 90% of other critics did.]

  • markj

    He was always an astute and entertaining presence here on HE, and gave us one of the greatest ‘making of’ docs – one so good it actually became a great film in it’s own right.

    Thanks for everything George.

  • DiscoNap

    Jesus Christ. I was a dick to him more than a few times, but as far as I can remember our last exchange was about how I’d enjoyed MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS and he just said thanks and brushed off the rest of my blustering. I gave him a hard time for his being elitist about Batman, which in hindsight seems so dumb, of course he would be he was an artist. His films were hit or miss for me, but the guy who came through on here, Dutch, Irish, the temper, a bit on the heavy side- he always made way too much sense to me. And as others have mentioned it was cool he was kicking around in here with us. He was a class guy. Way too young. I need to hit the gym.

  • Admiral82

    I’m just stunned. I have deep respect for George.

    I met him here in St Louis after a screening of “The Big Brass Ring.” We talked for maybe ten minutes. He was so kind and approachable, very thoughtful with his words. Class act, very candid. I always hoped I’d run into him again, have coffee or grab beer.

    This is very sad.

    Life is all too short, friends.

  • frankbooth

    I saw the announcement in the news and figured it merited a log-in.

    I remember when GH first turned up here a couple of years ago. It was rare for an actual director to show up and post under his own name, and the blog was buzzing. The novelty wore off, but it was always fun to see him mix it up with the commenters. He even invited everyone to have a drink once, but only the long-since-banned Jeff McM showed up, and the result was him, Hickenlooper and Wells sitting around uncomfortably in a bar. McM said he was friendly, though. Wish I’d been there for that one.

    I imagine he was in poor health. I would have guessed his age at much older than 47.

    I pissed him off once by parodying his “get mad-apologize-get mad again” posting style. He was always entertaining, and 47 is far too young. Guess I’ll put MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS and FACTORY GIRL in my Netflix queue. RIP, George.

  • moviechick44

    Just another reminder how you have to just bask in the any enjoyment in life you can muster, because it could be gone just like that. And in your forties. Here one second, then gone the next.

    I thought to myself that Casino Jack was going to be the real spirng board for his later projects that would propell him into greatness and a Oscar nomination one day.

    This is very sad news. Spacey must be beside himself. How is he going to promote Casino Jack with a smile on his face ? Life just isn’t fair.

  • LicentiousMaximus

    I was one of the many who believed until recently that Eleanor Coppola made Hearts of Darkness. It’s a great doc and I loved both the Man from Elysian Fields and Factory Girl. I got in more than a few arguments with the dude. He was wrong about Iraq, but it seemed he was wrong for hte right reasons, if that’s possible. Have a good trip, you died too young.