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.