Dennis Hopper, the legendary actor who has credited appearances in over 200 films and television shows, passed away today at the age of 74. The actor had been embroiled in a battle with prostate cancer and, as is so often the case these days, the cancer has won. Hopper became ill last September when he made his cancer public and he continued to work over the past several months on his Starz series “Crash” and his books of photography. He died in his Venice, California home this morning at 8:15am Pacific time surrounded by family and friends.
Hopper had been working in film for more than 50 years from his first film role in the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause to his most recent appearances in films like 2008’s Swing Vote and Elegy. He had a reputation for his skill at playing the villain with his role as the terrorist in Speed and the mad man in Blue Velvet. Hopper’s personal life was just as chaotic as many of his screen roles having been married five times including an eight-day union with Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas who later told Vanity Fair “she was subjected to excruciating treatment.”
Once again an actor who has died whose works I have seen far too little of. I have never seen his most lauded classic Easy Rider, which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in. The film won two Oscars and is sitting at number 84 on the latest edition of the AFI Top 100 Movies. I have also unfortunately not seen Hopper in his only Oscar-winning role as the coach in the basketball classic Hoosiers. Inspirational sports movies are not often the type that I seek out, but in Hoppers memory I may just have to.
My favorite Dennis Hopper role is his bit appearance in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. In that film Hopper plays a psychotic stoner photographer who came to the jungle to take photos on behalf of a magazine, but ended up staying because of Colonel Kurtz as he says “The man’s enlarged my mind. He’s a poet warrior in the classic sense.” It’s simultaneously a funny and terrifying performance that shows Hopper at his best.
I also rather enjoyed him in the first season of the television show “24” as the villain Victor Drazen. His accent was terrible, but he was an incredibly likable bad guy and I could tell he was having a lot of fun.
What is your favorite Dennis Hopper role?