Los Angeles filmmaker George Hickenlooper was in Denver to observe the final run of his cousin John Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial campaign and for the screening of his latest film, Casino Jack, scheduled to be shown Thursday at the Starz Denver Film Festival. But on Saturday, George was found dead in the Uptown Denver apartment where he had been staying, according to The Denver Post. He was 47 and apparently died of natural causes, say police, who don’t suspect any sort of foul play.
“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,” says actor Kevin Spacey, who stars in Casino Jack as disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
“We are devastated,” says Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. “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 won an Emmy in 1992 for Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, a documentary about the film Apocalypse Now. He also produced a documentary on his cousin John entitled Hick Town. George felt that both politics and filmmaking have the potential to increase cynicism, but he also believed it was possible to guard against such thoughts. “Most people, 95 percent of people, are good people,” he once said (via the Los Angeles Times). “It’s the five percent who get seduced by power. Abraham Lincoln said if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
George thought of himself as a “storyteller” who wanted his films to be entertaining. “What is it Louis B. Mayer said? ‘If you want to send a message, call Western Union?’ But, I do want them to be worldly and relevant. I’m fascinated by failure, and I’m fascinated by finality. Shakespeare’s historical plays are more universal than his comedies because they relate to the finality of life. Without finality, life would not be beautiful.”