In many opinions "L.A. Confidential" is considered one of the very best films made about Los Angeles. Curtis Hanson's noirish thriller is a fascinating study of power in 1950s L.A., dealing with corruption, the limitations of justice, and the thin line between illusion and reality. Listening to Hanson talk about how he managed to get his movie made last night during a Q&A at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, with David Kipen of NEA, my appreciation for the film grew immensely.
A good director's vision doesn't quit. Warner Bros. wanted a major star in the lead, but Hanson wanted to cast virtual unknowns at the time, and have three leads propelling the story, not just one. The idea was to allow audiences' impressions of the characters to change over the arc the film. He rehearsed for six weeks with Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe in order to get their on-screen relationship just right. He met Kevin Spacey at the actual Formosa Cafe to talk to him about playing Jack Vincennes. He'd hunt for locations in L.A. with production designer Jeanine Oppewall, who had to take many security bars off windows to recall L.A. in the '50s.
In order to convey how Hanson wanted "L.A. Confidential" to feel overall, true to James Ellroy's original novel, he'd present a series of Pablo Ferro images to studio executives, actors, designers, and editors, contrasting the illusion of Los Angeles as a land of plenty with the reality of its less squeaky clean core. Those images eventually inspired the movie's opening sequence.
The perseverance paid off. "L.A. Confidential" was nominated for nine Oscars and won two.