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Former hellraiser Dennis Hopper still has cult status

 
Anonymous Coward
08/22/2005 12:17 AM
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Former hellraiser Dennis Hopper still has cult status
By James Mottram
 

As an unexpected shower cascades outside, Dennis Hopper walks into the hotel dining room as if the sun has just burst through the clouds. Wearing jeans, a tie and a powder-blue jacket, he has a huge cigar wedged in his mouth - one of the few vices left to a man who, at his worst, consumed half a gallon of rum, 28 beers and three grams of cocaine a day. Looking more like a movie mogul than the counterculture icon of Easy Rider, he is in celebratory mood.

"This is my 50th year in the film business," he announces, his grey moustache tickling his nostrils as his mouth breaks into a wolfish grin.

If anything, he should be toasting survival. Four divorces, studio blacklists, court cases, a spell in a psychiatric ward: the 69-year-old Hopper has weathered more storms than a North Sea trawler.

Lucky to be alive, let alone working, Hopper has inevitably calmed down in his twilight years.

Now, heīs a grandfather, plays golf with Jack Nicholson, votes Republican and lives contentedly with wife number five (since 1996), the actress Victoria Duffy.

Yet, judging by his recent contribution to Fire Coming Out Of A Monkeyīs Head, on the Gorillaz album Demon Days, Hopper is still loved by the generation that grew up hearing tales of his excesses.

Dubbed "the rebel without a cortex" by one wag, two years before he directed Peter Fonda and Nicholson in Easy Rider, Hopper had already starred opposite them as a dealer in Roger Cormanīs The Trip, only recently granted a certificate by British censors.

He didnīt emerge from his own purple haze until the early 1980s. Arrested in Mexico, he was found naked, begging to be shot dead.

Hopperīs memory of those days is, understandably, somewhat askew.

"Drugs never interfered with our film-making," he says, his body stiffening.

"If somebody had said, īThe drugs and alcohol are interferingī, I wouldīve stopped. Iīm probably in denial, but I havenīt had a drink or hard narcotics in 21 years.

"At the time, drinking, doing cocaine and smoking grass while working ... it was all about the work. It wasnīt about the drugs. We did them to keep going. They couldīve cut off my legs and Iīd still have been directing movies.

"Later, when one wasnīt allowed to work or couldnīt get jobs, then the drugs and alcohol were no longer about the work. They were about wallowing in self-pity and anger. Thatīs a different story."

The problem with a hellraiser such as Hopper is that fact and fiction - like the actor and his roles - have become one.

Hopper claimed, for example, that the actor Rip Torn held a steak knife to his throat after Hopper had sacked him from Easy Rider.

But his boast of the incident on a 1994 episode of The Tonight Show saw Torn - who claimed that Hopper pulled the blade - sue for defamation and win.

Nonetheless, it perpetuates the notion that Hopper was born to be wild, a reputation that seeps into his best work.

Think of the freewheeling biker in Easy Rider, the jabbering photojournalist in Apocalypse Now, and the amyl nitrate-huffing psychotic in 1986īs Blue Velvet, a role he won after saying to the director David Lynch: "I am Frank Booth".

An electrifying performance by a completely sober Hopper - heīd quit drink and drugs four years earlier - Blue Velvet was part of a comeback that cemented his cult status. In the same year, he played a drug dealer in Riverīs Edge and a drunken coach in Hoosiers, which got him the only Best Actor Oscar nomination of his career.

But if he has been treading water ever since, playing the villain in films such as Speed and Waterworld, Hopper continues to surprise in other fields. A renowned photographer and artist, he also collects modern art.

Now on his third collection - in his LA home hang works by Warhol, Schnabel and Basquiat - his previous collections went towards alimony payments.

In his latest film, Hopper plays an evil tycoon named Kaufman in George Romeroīs Land of the Dead, the latterīs first zombie movie in 20 years. If itīs hardly vintage Hopper, he evidently views its director as a kindred spirit.

"Romero made Night of the Living Dead in 1968, when I was shooting Easy Rider. I saw it and realised that most of us were trying to make films as metaphors for how we saw society. It addressed problems at the time in my country."

Land of the Dead marks an odd reunion for Hopper and Universal Studios. He clashed with Universalīs Lew Wasserman in 1971, after his experimental film, The Last Movie, had won an award in Venice.

"I had final cut, they wanted me to re-edit it, I refused," explains Hopper.

"Wasserman said, īIf you donīt re-edit, Iīll show it for two weeks in New York and LA, three days in San Francisco, and itīll never be seen in Europe.ī I said, īYou canīt do that to meī, and went on all the talk shows.

"Of course, thatīs what he did do. I was young and thought I had power. I had no power at all. I had a big mouth. I didnīt direct another movie for 12 years, and Iīve never really got back into the mainstream of Hollywood."

But, he says, he holds no grudges against Wasserman anymore.

Hopper, who now owns the rights to The Last Movie, plans to put it out on DVD. As it was, its seemingly prophetic title wasnīt accurate.

Hopper went on to direct the well-regarded Out of the Blue in 1980, and the LA gangs drama Colors with Sean Penn, but he has been more unlucky as a director than actor.

Orion went bankrupt as he directed The Hot Spot, as did Vestron, when he made Catchfire with Jodie Foster.

He lets out a raucous laugh. "Rembrandt screwed the maid, and all his paintings were taken down; it took 300 years to rediscover him. But Hopper screwed Hollywood and we may never see his films!"

His last directorial effort was the forgettable Chasers in 1994. "It was unfortunate as I was - am - a really talented director. I should have been allowed to make more films," he says.

"Hopefully, during my three months off next year, Iīll direct one."

As upbeat as Hopper seems, he has moments of self-pity as he thinks back on the days when Easy Rider saw him and co-writers Peter Fonda and Terry Southern nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

"I bullshitted everybody, told them all the dreams, all the things I was going to do," he says. "Now Iīm a total failure. I was full of shit and thatīs the end of it."

He says it with a smile, and youīre not sure whether to believe him.

At least heīs made his peace in his personal life.

Aside from his fourth wife, the dancer Katherine La Nasa - mother of his 14-year-old son Henry - he maintains good relations with his ex-wives. He also has three daughters: Marin, 44 (with Brooke Hayward); Ruthana, 33 (with third wife, Daria Halprin); and the latest addition (with Duffy), 2-year-old Galen Grier. They all live in LA and "get along as well as a family gets along".

Hopper didnīt get along that well with his own parents. He was raised on a Kansas farm owned by his motherīs father, while his own father initially managed a grocery store in Dodge City before joining what would become the CIA in World War II.

Posted to China, India and Burma, he was "in intelligence", says Hopper, with pride. But he admits that he "felt out of place" with his parents, who frowned on acting.

When they moved to San Diego, however, he studied acting, particularly Shakespeare, at the Old Globe Theatre.

Put under contract by Warner Bros at 18, he made an immediate impact, starring opposite James Dean in Rebel without a Cause and Giant. But in 1957, the studio ousted him after he fell out with the director of From Hell to Texas. Blackballed for eight years, he went to New York and studied under Lee Strasberg, while taking fashion photographs for Vogue and Harperīs.

He may have marched with Martin Luther King and against the Vietnam War, but times, like his politics, have changed.

This year, he stars in a Pentagon-set TV series, E-Ring. Comparisons to The West Wing are being made, but Hopper, who plays a colonel, says: "Itīs even better as few people know about the Pentagon. And itīs a great part. Iīm going to knock some socks off."

After his days of portraying the unhinged, itīs shocking to see Hopper play such establishment figures in both this and Land of the Dead.

But just as his wild youth-fuelled early performances, Hopperīs work still reflects where his head is.

Buttoned up, settled down, Dennis Hopper is happy to be as respectable as the next citizen. "Right now," he says, "is the best time in my life."

- INDEPENDENT

* LOWDOWN

WHO: Dennis Hopper, veteran Hollywood maverick

BORN: May 17 1936, Dodge City, Kansas

KEY ROLES: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Trip (1967), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Easy Rider (1969), True Grit (1969), The Last Movie (1971) The American Friend (1977), Apocalypse Now (1979), Rumble Fish (1983), Riverīs Edge (1986), Blue Velvet (1986), Paris Trout (1991), The Indian Runner (1991), Red Rock West (1992), True Romance (1993), Speed (1994) Waterworld (1995), Edtv (1999), The Night We Called It a Day (2003).
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:08 AM
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Re: Former hellraiser Dennis Hopper still has cult status
I still like "The Sons Of Katie Elder". Everybody kicks the snot out of Hopper.
Nerak
12/08/2005 10:08 AM
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Re: Former hellraiser Dennis Hopper still has cult status
Lets not forget Flashback and Keffier as Free.
Look at me: WRONG!
12/08/2005 10:08 AM
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Re: Former hellraiser Dennis Hopper still has cult status
Most choice bit and the only one U need to know:

QUOTE from above article

"...Hopper didnīt get along that well with his own parents.

He was raised on a Kansas farm owned by his motherīs father, while his own father initially managed a grocery store in Dodge City

before joining what would become the CIA in World War II.

Posted to China, India and Burma, he was "in intelligence", says Hopper, with pride...."

FROM APOCALYPSE NOW.

Hopper was the Photojournalist with five long lens cameras round his neck, all empty of film.

Photojournalist: What are they gonna say about him?

What are they gonna say?

That he was a kind man?

That he was a wise man?

That he had plans?

That he had wisdom?

Bullshit man!

Willard: Could we, uh, talk to Colonel Kurtz?


Photojournalist: Hey, man, you donīt talk to the Colonel.

You listen to him.

The manīs enlarged my mind.

Heīs a poet-warrior in the classic sense.

I mean sometimes heīll, uh, well, youīll say hello to him, right?

And heīll just walk right by you, and he wonīt even notice you.

And suddenly heīll grab you, and heīll throw you in a corner, and heīll say" Do you know that īIFī is the middle word in life?

"...If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you...ī

- I mean Iīm no, I canīt -

Iīm a little man, Iīm a little man,

heīs, heīs a great man.

"...I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas... "

Kurtz: I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. Thatīs my dream. Thatīs my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight... razor... and surviving...."
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:08 AM
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Re: Former hellraiser Dennis Hopper still has cult status
Now, he votes Republican.

I wanted to check this out.

Dennis Hopper gave $2,000 to the Republican party to re-elect Bush.

[link to www.newsmeat.com]

JOHN LEGUIZAMO SAYS: I learned that Hopper was a Republican on Super Mario Bros., so I learned never to bring politics up because- I really dig the guy, you know – (in Hopperīs voice) īDennis Hopper is so cool, man.ī Heīll always sort of be that hippie cat.

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