“For a brief moment there, there really seemed to be an independent film movement. Then it was over.” That’s how Dennis Hopper has described the unexpected and massive popularity of his 1969 movie Easy Rider. The little fill really did come out of nowhere and established Hopper, Peter Fonda, and a very young Jack Nicholson as the ‘fresh new faces to watch’ in the movie industry. It cost less than $500k, and left behind so many changed lives, a couple of generations who have been on the brink of a new way of thinking. The kids needed a little nudge, and Easy Rider was that tiny last straw.
Hopper has had a great career, appearing in so many films and shows that it makes little sense to list them. See for yourself and just go out and rent these little gems. Even on small screen, from 24 to E-Ring, to Crash – Hopper has brought that spark of insanity (best known for his Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, back in 1986) that energized every scene, and added just enough of uncertainty, unpredictability that kept us watching. Even his recent insurance commercials (I think it was insurance, don’t really keep track of celeb casting to sell products) were fun to watch. Hopper embodied the ‘cool’. He invented it. He lived it.
Even with plenty of reports that he’s difficult to work with, a diva on the set, multiple marriages, and the occasional drunk/drug scandals, he captivated – probably most of all – with his eyes. The kind of gentle, loving, caring gaze that will turn into a savage glare if you get in his way. Just captivating.
The last couple of years he’s been battling cancer, and trying to get rid of the latest trophy wife, who was clearly just counting down the days for the inheritance clause to kick in. I’m not sure about the details, but I’ve heard enough stories where the wife was only in it for the money, and the man – for the sex with a young little thing. In Hopper’s case, and given his vast legacy in films, I certainly hope that the bitch got nothing, and his family/estate can keep the fame/wealth he has accumulated while entertaining generations of movielovers.
IMDB lists that he never had an Oscar, but certainly had dozens of other awards. Too edgy for the ‘good’ awards, heh? Well, let’s hope the Academy wakes from its stupor and gives him something posthumously. If not for Easy Rider, then perhaps for Waterworld and True Romance. The man could certainly take a shitty role/film and elevate it into something of a masterpiece. And just walk away with a stolen scene keeping his cool and that kind, gentle (but ready to pounce) gaze.
Dennis, I’m downing a couple of shots later tonight in your honor, and will go back to my film collection to re-watch some of your past movies. I suggest you people do the same. In that order. Stay cool, my man.