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Dennis Hopper: 1936 - 2010

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Saturday, May 29, 2010

The director of Easy Rider has left us. Dennis Hopper, the actor/director/writer and star of that seminal 1969 movie that defined the turbulent 1960s for a generation of western audiences, passed away today at the age of 74. Through a series of memorable roles in remarkable pictures, Hopper left a mark on Hollywood and American pop culture in the last half of the 20th century.

His career was like his personal life: filled with great heights as well as moments that were mistakes. Even so, Dennis Hopper came out of his close scrapes and always managed to regain a return to order and appreciation.

Hopper's film career began like many stars in the post-World War II generation, playing guest roles on television shows. His first credited movie role was as a tough in a film that's also never been overlooked: the 1955 James Dean drama Rebel Without a Cause. Hopper became friends with Dean while working on the picture, and when the rising star died later in the year that Rebel came out, Hopper said that Dean's passing left a permanent mark on his soul.

More TV and film work followed for Hopper throughout the 1960s, cumulating in the hippie road movie Easy Rider that Hopper directed, starred in and co-wrote. Easy Rider was lauded by critics, winning a First Film Award at that year's Cannes Film Festival as well as earning Hopper a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination. But while the success of Easy Rider elevated Hopper's career to the A-level, behind the scenes he was going through the first of many destructive periods of his life. Drug and alcohol abuse, a divorce and Hopper's proclivity to lose his temperment with friends as well as business partners resulted in him losing much of the creative momentum he earned from Easy Rider. It wasn't until Francis Ford Coppola cast Hopper as a burned out cult member in Apocalypse Now that audiences and Hollywood seemed to remember Dennis Hopper again.

Apocalypse Now began a career rejuvination for Hopper. Throughout the 1980s right up to his passing the actor never seemed to be short for work; the problem was that for most of the films Hopper appeared in, they were average pictures, and for every diamond (like his performance as the psychopathic Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet), Hopper would appear in movies that seemed to be beneath him (like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, released the same year as Blue Velvet.) Still, solid performances in such films as Hoosiers, Red Rock West, True Romance and Basquiat will be among those parts that will now stand out in Dennis Hopper's film career. Even in straight-forward popcorn event movies like Speed or Waterworld where Hopper was typically cast as a crazy villain, he never failed to not deliver vibrant maniacal energy into the roles. He was also a respected painter (as well as a collector of art) and a photographer, with his work appearing in several galleries and exhibits. Among his pop culture accomplishments, Hopper painted the album artwork for Tina and Ike Turner's 1966 album River Deep, High Mountain.

In October 2009 Hopper was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and in a short time the disease had worked its way into his bones. Facing his imminent mortality, as well as undergoing his fifth divorce, Hopper lived long enough to see himself presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame two months ago. He is survived by four children and two grandchildren.

mckracken
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Posts: 965
Posted: 12 years 16 weeks ago

quite sad, I enjoyed Dennis Hopper, he will sorly be missed.

Rest In peace Dennis, you're in a better place now buddy!