'Casino Jack' Director George Hickenlooper Found Dead at 47
Over the past couple months the festival circuit has been graced by the presence of director George Hickenlooper, the man behind such films as the Apocalypse Now behind-the-scenes documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, Factory Girl and, most recently, Casino Jack starring Kevin Spacey as hated lobbyist Jack Abramoff. However, whilst in Denver, Colorado visiting his cousin, mayor John Hickenlooper, and attending yet another film festival, The New York Times reports that the filmmaker was found dead over the weekend. At 47 years-old, Hickenlooper has apparently died of natural causes and no foul play is expected. Read on!
As far as his friends and family are aware, Hickenlooper had not been experience any health problems and the director had been quite energetically, and excitedly promoting Casino Jack at various film festivals in Toronto, Austin and other U.S. locales. Documentarian Mogran Spurlock even chronicled some of his festival activities in the AMC documentary Committed, an hour-long chronicle of four different filmmakers as they find themselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Toronto International Film Festival. From that documentary alone, you could really get a sense of Hickenlooper's warmth, passion and humble demeanor.
From The Wrap, Roger Ebert remorsed, "The is hearbtreaking," while Casino Jack star Kevin Spacey recently made a statement about the tragic death of the filmmaker:
"I can’t believe he's gone because George was so alive, bubbling with energy, drive, commitment, an open heart and a brilliant sense of humor. He was one of a kind. My experience working with him was nothing short of fantastic: from our prison visit with Jack Abramoff, to script meetings, pre-production discussions and finally our first day of shooting. From that day until our last event premiering Casino Jack in Toronto last month, he was a joy to be around. His sensibility and outlook served his everyday. All of us who knew him – who had the chance to collaborate with him – who saw the child in him that he never lost - always looking at life with wonder and curiosity – will miss him with enormous admiration and affection. Tonight I raise a glass in his honor. Rest in peace, my friend."
I think we can all join Mr. Spacey in raising our glasses to George Hickenlooper, a man who dabbled in documentaries and fact-based dramas, and a loved filmmaker and friend to many in his field. In addition to his aforementioned work, the director was also responsible for directing the short film Some Call It a Sling Blade which Billy Bob Thornton wrote and directed before it was adapted into the feature length film Sling Blade. The industry has lost a truly gifted talent behind the camera and our thoughts go out to his friends and family.