Today, we have lost yet another icon – one in fact that I think many of us thought would never die! He was the kind of guy who you saw and imagined that if the devil came to collect his soul he would smile in that wicked manner any fan knows, smooth talk and maybe even scare old Beelzebub just a wee bit along the way.
In case you dont know or haven’t guessed who Im talking to (honestly, Im surprised if you haven’t!) is the one and only Dennis Hopper.
He died less a mere 24 hours ago at the age of 74 – and it is something to wonder that his last appearance in public was when he accepted his star on the Hollywood walk of fame not too long ago.
This is something that intrigues me I must admit, that an actor of his caliber recieved that star this late into his career while Drew Barrymore, Hugh Jackman, Cameron Diaz and John ******* Stamos got stars before he did. Its just a thought but how can you memorialise and honour these guys who are only part-way into their careers and have made good movies but hardly iconic and world-changing stuff like Dennis Hopper did?
… My apologies, my over-zealousness sometimes gets the better of me.
Back to the point at hand!
Dennis Hopper was an actor/director that defied convention, he played roles and made movies that left indelible images in your brain.
Making his acting debut way back with the one and only James Dean himself in Rebel without a cause and Giant – however its said that after Deans death his career went through severe turmoil until he was cast by the Duke – John Wayne himself in a couple of his movies and Hopper went on from their to make his mark in Hollywood.
His single most famous work of course is the movie he co-wrote, directed and starred in alongside Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson (hows that for sheer awesomeness!!) – the ever loved and always bad-ass Easy Rider.
Going on from there to make some great movies like Out of the Blue and Rumble Fish, he had his most disturbingly awesome roles in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet playing gas-gasping, sexual pervert and masochistic maniac Frank Booth – a role that he played to near chilling perfection!
Looking back on his career you see Hopper as a one-of-a-kind man in the world of movies in every sense of the word. The guy was a larger then life image, a persona a fantastic character actor often undersold because of his proclivities for drugs and the hard living lifestyle till sometime in the 80’s – he never did it anyway but his way, in fact there is a long standing story about how he refused to act out a scene the directors way in a movie once and refused for 80 takes over days. Seriously.
He has worked in a variety of roles in movies like Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola where he stood out as a drugged out photo-journalist disillusioned by everything around him; Hoosiers where he played the towns basketball loving drunk; a greedy self-help guru in Search and Destroy alongside Ethan Hawke and the inimitable Christopher Walken; even more recently playing Viktor Drazen, Jack Bauers nemesis in the first season of 24 – these are just the tip of the iceberg, the cream of the crop among the many parts he has played over the years.
No matter the movie, whether it was a hit or a miss, funny or dark, portraying hero or villain – Hopper was always a stand-out and always exceptional.
One of those actors that was always critically acclaimed, yet never a box office guarantee like many others, he somehow remained just off to the centre of the mainstream radar. Occassionally coming in as and when it worked for him but always marching to his own tune no matter what.
And for those that may not have been aware of this, as far back as the 60’s Dennis Hopper was also a painter and photographer who was at the time one of those names declared ‘to keep an eye on’ in the field of photography. In fact the Ike and Tina single ‘River Deep/Mountain High‘ had its cover art done by Hopper.
He was a troubled man in certain ways – long known to have a huge drinking and drugs related problem which he eventually got over in the 80’s and of course having 5 wives hardly makes him a role model for kids.
But in the end I think we have to ask ourselves a question that his character asked Martin Sheen’s in the classic Apocalypse Now, “What are they gonna say about him? He was a kind man? He was a wise man? He had plans? He had wisdom?…”
These are things I think we all ask when someone passes and sometimes about ourselves when the thought of mortality touches our minds fleetingly.
Honestly, I will remember Hopper for the unique being that he was.. good or bad, he was a master of his craft and left a legacy to remember. Was he perfect in anyway? No, but I believe in remembering people as they were, not as I would like them to be.
He was both a good man and a bad man depending on which event, what moment and what person from his life you look upon, for now I just want to say a heartfelt thanks and goodbye to a performer who had a hand in shaping my youthful mind, albiet indirectly, and gave life to some of the most powerful characters (often villainous) that cinema has ever seen.
R.I.P Easy Rider, you were born to be wild and you were till the end. Cheers..