May 17, 1936 to May 29, 2010
It’s been just over two weeks since Dennis Hopper (the self-proclaimed “compulsive creator”) passed away, but I can’t stop thinking how memorable he was and yet so unappreciated. Black-balled for nearly eight years early in his career and dropped by Warner Brothers after forcing director Henry Hathaway to 86 different takes of a scene with just one line, Hopper was an extremely individual actor from the get-go. Notorious for more than just his unruly nature and persistent drug-addled state of mind, he’s also known for sharing the screen in one of his first major roles with the titan James Dean. He was involved very heavily in the art world (extremely fond of and skilled with photography) and was part of Andy Warhol’s NYC scene for a while, even appearing in some of his now infamous Screen Tests with him.
After finishing his opus, The Last Movie, in Peru (a film which won top prize at the Venice Film Festival with none other than Ingmar Bergman as one of the judges), he went back to Taos, New Mexico where he inhabited a place called the Mable Dodge Luhan House. The sixties and seventies were known for these types of “communes,” and Hopper’s was no exception. Everyone who was anyone hip or offbeat in that time passed though this place. At one point Hopper claims to have found it a little annoying. This is where he edited The Last Movie, and Taos is also where he shot part of Easy Rider and was laid to rest on Wednesday, June 1, 2010.
Hopper may not be missed by all; some people that I recently mentioned his death to, where like “Who is that?”, but for a film junkie like myself, Hopper was a character actor that had no trouble taking the lead. His work as a director was always gorgeously lensed and full of colorful characters and his insatiable need to create and appreciate all artforms I find to be a trait severely lacking in many of today’s Hollywood outcasts. Hopper’s life is fit for a biopic — and while (for now) the best we’ll get is that eerily familiar third and fourth season of Entourage in which a lot of the events seem distilled from Hopper’s life post-The Last Movie (he even has a cameo!) — there’s a great doc about him. It’s posted it below in six parts.
Directed by Robert Guenette, this very 80s documentary on his life and work is pretty interesting (despite it’s terrible title graphics and cheesy score). What’s great about it is how only his most personal film work is touched upon, and interwoven with his personal aspirations and demons. Take a hour of your day and watch it below to help honor an artist who surely will one day have his bio optioned into a Hollywood drama. Mark my words.
My personal selection of highlights from Dennis Hopper’s career:
Rebel Without A Cause,
The Night Tide,
Cool Hand Luke,
The Last Movie,
Out of the Blue,
The Hot Spot,
The Indian Runner,
His inspirational stint on The Johnny Cash Show in 1970, where he recited a poem that he’d later use as inspiration for his infamous Apocalypse Now rant,
And, his 1968 Andy Warhol-directed Screen Test (here with an updated score by Dean & Britta).
Thank you, Dennis Hopper.