Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

John Hickenlooper plays politician in Casino Jack, cousin George Hickenlooper's swan song

"I can't keep saying I'm not a politician," governor-elect and definite politician John Hickenlooper said yesterday as he stood the State Capitol, outlining his transition-team plans. From where he stood, he could see his mayoral office at the Denver City & County Building. But his political career really got his start at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

The brewpub was the home base for the campaign to save the name of Mile High Stadium, a grassroots effort that had customers telling Hickenlooper he should run for mayor.

The brewpub is also where he met so many people who became part of his Denver power base. And some from outside Denver, too, including his cousin, filmmaker George Hickenlooper.

Back in 1991, George was in town for the Denver International Film Festival, which just launched its 33rd edition last night. He wound up over at the then-three-year-old Wynkoop, where he met a brewpub owner with the same, very unusual last name. Turns out, the two were cousins: George was "the only son of an only son," John says, and he didn't realize there were other relatives out there.

The cousins soon became fast friends, with George giving John a bit part in one of his films -- and then returning to Denver in 2008 to make him the subject of a film, Hick Town, that followed John and his staff as they prepared for the Democratic National Convention. George Hickenlooper came to town last Friday to film an addition to that film, which would follow John through election day.

John Hickenlooper made it to the State Capitol, but George didn't get to finish his film: The 47-year-old filmmaker passed away Friday night. He'll be remembered tonight when his latest movie, Casino Jack, premieres at the newly christened Denver FilmCenter/Colfax.

And even though George Hickenlooper didn't get to film John Hickenlooper's next chapter, he did capture the rising politician: He cast his cousin as a senator in Casino Jack.

Here's the trailer for Casino Jack:

More from our Television & Film archive: "George Hickenlooper: Despite his death, series about cousin John Hickenlooper moves forward."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun