Saturday, May 29, 2010

DENNIS HOPPER 1936 - 2010

It is with great regret that I report the sad, but expected, passing of veteran actor Dennis Lee Hopper from prostate cancer. He had been ill for some time. While Hopper gained notoriety for writing and directing the 1969 classic Easy Rider, he will perhaps better be remembered for his extraordinary acting career in both television and cinema for 55 years. He was 74.

Born in Kansas to, Marjorie, a lifeguard instructor and Jay Hopper, an OSS agent; young Dennis developed an interest in acting which eventually brought him to the Actors Studio in NYC. Hopper eventually turned his hand to photography, painting, poetry, and art collecting. One of his photographs became an album cover for Ike and Tina Turner and he purchased one of Andy Warhol's early prints of Campbell's Soup Cans for $75.

In addition to appearing in hundreds of television shows in the 50's and 60's (including The Time Tunnel, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone and The Big Valley), he also made his mark on movies starring alongside James Dean and John Wayne. But it was in 1969 when he gathered Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Terry Southern to star with him in his movie Easy Rider that people began to really take note. Despite accolades for this work as both a writer and director [ including an Oscar nomination], Hopper's confrontational attitude and accelerated use of drugs and alcohol took its toll on his career and his first marriage.

Audiences were treated first hand to what was going through his's mind at this time by the almost incomprehensible film The Last Movie, dismissed by both critics and audiences in 1971. Hopper sustained his Hollywood lifestyle by appearing in many low-budget movies until landing perhaps his most perfect role in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. It is widely held that Hopper, an avid photographer, was not really acting as he portrayed a manic hyperactive photojournalist.

In the early 1980's Hopper entered rehab to kick his 3-grams-a-day cocaine addiction washed down by 30 bottles of beer and marijuana spliffs. It may have taken a while but it seemed to have worked by the time he played Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. He was back on form and his career revived.

Hopper directed Robert Duvall and Sean Penn in the acclaimed police drama Colours in 1988 Just two years later studio executives butchered his 1990 Jodie Foster film Catchfire - forcing him to use the Alan Smithee [disowned] credit and causing him to lose his taste for direction.

Like most actors of his ilk, Hopper took what was offered and since the 80's has appeared in classics like True Romance, Land Of The Dead and Speed [in which he falls victim to one of my favourite death scenes of all time], but he has appeared in countless turds like Waterworld, Super Mario Borthers and Space Truckers. He's no stranger to video games either as he made the FMV video game Black Dahlia in 1998 and more notably provided the voice of Steve Scott in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Despite his multitude of roles on the silver sceen, I'd be confident that the latter half of Hopper's career will be more remembered for his television appearances with the role of Victor Drazen, one of the first antagoonists in the hit Fox show 24, as Special Operations Colonel Eli McNulty on NBC's E-Ring and most recently up to the time he became ill, as record producer Ben Cendars in the TV show based on the movie Crash.

Hopper was delighted to have completed his work on Crash's second season as well as editing a 546-page book of photographs taken by him. Hopper was honored with the 2,403rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of the iconic Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Surrounded by friends including Jack Nicholson, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch, Michael Madsen, family, and fans, he attended its addition to the sidewalk on March 26, 2010.

Hopper is survived by his fifth wife Victoria Duffy [from whom he had filed for divorce], 42 with whom he had a 6 year old daughter. May he rest in peace.

Thanks to Constance for substantial editing assistance

1 comment:

Civilian Overseer said...

"You can't to the Moon on fractions Rest in Peace You Beautifully Mad Bastard.