Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper, Actor, activist. 1936-2010

The celebrity reaper is not taking any time off!

Dennis Hopper, the American actor who died on May 29 aged 74, appeared in more than 100 films and directed Easy Rider (1969), a low-budget hymn to the libertarian ethics of the counterculture that was one of the defining films of its era.

But Hopper was more than just an actor/director. He was also a producer, screenwriter, photographer, painter and art collector who knew or worked with almost every significant American artist of the second half of the 20th century.

Yet despite his achievements and a list of friends that ranged from James Dean through Miles Davis and William Burroughs to Claes Oldenburg, Hopper was as famous for addictions and his “lost” years as for his enormous, if uneven, productivity.

Dennis Lee Hopper was born in Dodge City, Kansas, on May 17 1936. For much of his childhood he lived with his grandparents on their farm with “no neighbors … just a train that came through once a day”. When he went to the cinema he suddenly realized “where the train came from and went to”.

The family moved to Kansas City and then San Diego, where he attended high school and became obsessed by cinema, despite his mother’s implacable opposition to a career in films. Whilst he sought to “do something that would last”, she was convinced he would “end up a bum”.

He won a scholarship to San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, where he enjoyed playing “the mad and the bad” of Shakespeare — Hamlet, Macbeth, Iago. After appearing in the television series Medic he signed to Warner Brothers, whose boss was impressed by his having told a rival studio boss, the celebrated Harry Cohn, to “Go f--- yourself” when Cohn announced he could not stand Shakespeare.

Hopper was exceptionally self-assured, convinced he was the best young actor around until he saw James Dean, with whom he worked on the classic, moody Rebel Without A Cause (1955). He became obsessed by Dean, by his techniques, by Method acting and by Dean’s instruction to “just smoke the cigarette, don’t act like you’re smoking a cigarette”.

They appeared again together in Giant (1956). Immediately after filming, Dean was killed. Hopper, distraught at the loss of his mentor and hero, attempted to appropriate Dean’s image and method and concluded that rebelliousness was the leitmotif of artistic integrity. It proved a disastrous conclusion .

More on this article here!

Pop quiz, hot shot! Can you remember in what movies Dennis Hopper was in?

1 comment:

Sings-With-Spirits said...

Darn. I liked him.

He was one of the greats. He will be missed.