RIP Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood

I have to admit, I haven’t seen many of his movies.

Mr. Hopper is best known for his late 1960s and 1970s  “Easy Rider” like persona and continued on into the 1980s and 1990s with a long and successful film career.

He was nominated for his role in the 1986 film “Hoosiers” and was in retirement commercials to make financial planning look “cool.”

However, I would like to look at the times that many people forget. Before he was a pot smoking motorcyclist or crazed bus high-jacker.

None of this would have happened without those movies where he was casted as a 1950s angst young adult.  Without his friendship with James Dean, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood (three actors who died tragically), would Hopper have been the actor that some call crazy?

“Jimmy (James Dean) was the most talented and original actor I ever saw work,” Hopper said. “He was also a guerrilla artist who attacked all restrictions on his sensibility. Once he pulled a switchblade and threatened to murder his director. I imitated his style in art and in life. It got me in a lot of trouble.”

Hopper started out in the 1950s, a time people think of as pure and “Leave It To Beaver” like, but the youthful actors were not out playing bridge on Saturday nights.

“In the 50s, when me and Natalie Wood and James Dean and Nick Adams and Tony Perkins (Anthony Perkins) suddenly arrived… God, it was a whole group of us that sort of felt like that earlier group – the John Barrymores, Errol Flynns, Sinatras, Clifts – were a little farther out than we were… So we tried to emulate that lifestyle,” Hopper said. “For instance, once Natalie and I decided we’d have an orgy. And Natalie says “O.K., but we have to have a champagne bath.” So we filled the bathtub full of champagne. Natalie takes off her clothes, sits down in the champagne, starts screaming. We take her to the emergency hospital. That was *our* orgy, you understand?”

One of my favorite performances of Dennis Hopper’s is his role as Jordy in “Giant.”  Whenever I hear his name I always get the mental image of him throwing the perfume bottle into the mirror (my favorite part of the movie) when his Spanish wife couldn’t get her hair done in the hair salon.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hopper.

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