Hanson initially worried his financiers by casting virtual unknowns and non A-list actors. However, this is the very strength of L.A. Confidential, as each actor gives utterly believable performances. In the case of Kim Basinger, as beautiful Veronica Lake look-alike hooker, Lynn Bracken, it is arguably her career best.
What is even more amazing about L.A Confidential is that three of the principal characters are played by Antipodeans. Russell Crowe in his first Hollywood role dominates the screen as thuggish blunt instrument with a heart, Officer Wendell "Bud" White. Former Aussie soap star Guy Pearce plays squeaky clean bespectacled go-getter, Sergeant Edmund Exley; while James Cromwell, (Farmer Hoggett from Babe) exudes corruption as Police Chief Captain Dudley Smith.
Elsewhere Kevin Spacey shines as Sergeant Jack Vincennes, the cool and charismatic Hollywood cop who moonlights as the technical advisor of Badge of Honor - loosely based on the Dragnet TV show. Vincennes also takes a cut of the action from weasly Sid Hudgeons played with sleazy relish by Danny Devito of Hush-Hush magazine - based on the notorious scandal rag Confidential magazine, itself the subject of a fascinating BBC radio documentary.
The eclectic soundtrack for L.A. Confidential mixes Jerry Goldsmith's dark and mysterious film noir score and a selection of popular hits from the era. Many of the songs perfectly ac-cent-tchu-ate the onscreen action. There is a particularly funny sequence with Lana Turner and her psychotic boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. Whilst Goldsmith's L.A. Confidential score is not perhaps his best, it bridges the gap between his own Chinatown score and John Barry's Playing By Heart. The score for L.A. Confidential was nominated, but lost out to James Horner's Titanic, for the Golden Globes and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Although other James Elroy novels have been brought to the screen, there are none to date that hold a candle to Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, a fact confirmed by Elroy himself.