The prolific and legendary actor Dennis Hopper passed away this morning at his home in California at the age of 74, after a battle with prostate cancer. According to Reuters, Hopper died at his home in California early this morning. This is a very sad day, indeed, for film fans, as Hopper made his mark on countless iconic films, from the searing Apocalypse Now to the surreal Blue Velvet, and, of course, Easy Rider, which he co-wrote and directed.
Hopper was part of a generation of actors and directors who rejuvenated filmmaking in the '70s in most unlikely ways, as detailed in the fascinating book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind.
Please add to Monika's wonderful post about your favorite Dennis Hopper roles, and stay tuned as the Cinematical team add their own thoughts to this article.
Some thoughts from a few Cinematical staff members:
He was a "goon" in Rebel Without a Cause. He did Bonanza and Gunsmoke and The Twilight Zone. He helped make Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, and Blue Velvet into benchmark films. He did dozens of movies you've never seen yet.
I believe my first experience with Mr. Hopper was in the slight-yet-amusing 1985 comedy My Science Project, and I remember thinking he was really funny for a grown-up. A few years later I saw him run rampant through Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and that was it: I was a Dennis Hopper fan for life. River's Edge, Hoosiers, Black Widow, Flashback, Paris Trout, Red Rock West, True Romance, Speed, Land of the Dead ... this guy was like an awesome yet unpredictable uncle every time you saw him at the movies. Even in junk like Super Mario Bros. or Waterworld, Hopper made his moments fun. (And he was in worse films than those two, believe me. Again, he always delivered something colorful.)
Like I said on the twitter: I'd say we need more actors like Dennis Hopper, but then that would make them less special. He will most definitely be missed, but like I said: the man did a lot of movies I bet you've never seen, so go dig up Mad Dog Morgan or Chattahoochee or The Osterman Weekend and enjoy the manic magic of some Dennis Hopper. -- Scott Weinberg
Dennis Hopper was primarily known as a villain, and few could be as all-out, bone-shaking sinister as he was. He had a glare and a use of silence that could rattle even the sturdiest of constitutions. Despite his famed drug use, he had unerring good taste through five decades of acting, appearing in an astonishing array of masterpieces, decades apart: "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955), "Easy Rider" (1969), "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Blue Velvet" (1986), "Speed" (1994) and "Land of the Dead" (2005), among many others, not to mention his unique directorial career. But I like to remember him for his couple of small, compassionate, heroic scenes in "True Romance" (1993), bonding with his son ("boy's right -- tastes just like a peach") and standing up to a creepy gangster (Christopher Walken) to defend his son's life. Hopper was a truly special, unique soul and I will miss him. - Jeffrey M. Anderson
Quoting Blue Velvet was not just one of punkest things my friends and I thought we could do in high school, but Hopper's off-the-wall Frank Booth has even followed me well into adulthood and even into a more corporate setting, where a most beloved boss and we would dip into some of our favorite Blue Velvet moments when HR wasn't looking (or listening).
But while Blue Velvet is, of course, an iconic role for him, as was his acid-dropping Easy Rider, which was filled with crazy antics off- and on-screen, and countless others (the unforgettable Feck in River's Edge with his blow-up doll girlfriend; Apocalypse Now, whose Redux version simulates Martin Sheen's journey into the heart of darkness), I think most fondly of the interviews he gave for the documentary 1 Giant Leap. The doc started out as a music project that Jamie Catto (Faithless) and Duncan Bridgeman put together with artists that spanned the globe. However, it turned into a multimedia project, with Catto and Bridgeman turning their interviews and music videos into a beautiful documentary split into chapters about death, spirituality, sex, and other universal topics. Hopper is just one of the insightful, influential people whom they talk to – Ram Dass, Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Brian Eno, and Sharon Mitchell are just a few of the interviewees that Westerners will recognize – and his candid interviews are priceless. -- Jenni Miller
Dennis Hopper was indeed one of the most influential contributors to the early independent film movement. And over the past few years he was lending his name to the modern cause as the President of the CineVegas film festival. As an attendee since 2003 until the fest went on an unfortunate (and hopefully short-lived) hiatus, there was always something special as a fan seeing him as part of the opening ceremonies much like Robert Redford has been for Sundance this year. But even moreso to watch the man hobknob with young indie filmmakers around a dinner table. Certainly he had a hand in bringing some well-known friends to the festival for tributes like Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn and Lawrence Fishburne.
It is not everyday you can see Dennis Hopper introduce Robert Duvall to introduce James Caan. We had not seen much of the actor in the past few years, so my lingering memories today are of seeing one of the real greats of Hollywood come full circle in embracing the next generation at CineVegas where Land of the Dead closed the festival in 2005 and where he poked fun at himself as Blue Velvet's Frank Booth in the bumpers that introduced the screenings. When CineVegas slates its return for 2011, Hopper's presence will be remembered and inevitably met with a most welcome tribute that will span the length of its days. - Erik Childress
I will miss Hopper for many reasons, but my first thought is that I'll miss him in the relatively small roles, none of which seemed as small as they were with him playing them. My first exposure to him was actually through My Science Project, in which he appears in a minor yet very loud part as a hippie teacher who travels through time. One of my favorite of his roles is as Christian Slater's father in True Romance. It was probably the first film i saw him play fairly calmly. Yet he's no less memorable than when he's off the rails. Most recently I saw him support Ben Kingsley in Elegy, a film I hated except for Hopper's performance. I'll always prefer him in Apocalypse Now over Easy Rider, Rebel Without a Cause over Speed and Cool Hand Luke to Blue Velvet. -- Christopher Campbell
It's probably easy for pop culture to dismiss Dennis Hopper as just a crazy madman who they could reign in long enough for a movie -- but even in something as legendarily insane as Mad Dog Morgan, Hopper knocks the quiet, emotional moments out of the park. He was truly one of our modern greats, and I'm sorry to see him go. -- Elisabeth Rappe