Too Much Culture

Dennis Hopper: Hollywood’s Original Bad Boy

Posted in Uncategorized by tneenan on 06/01/2010

The Year, 1969. The vehicle, a Harley Davidson. The rider, a fresh faced young actor about to drive straight past obscurity and become an American icon. Dennis Hopper.
It was Easy Rider which cemented Dennis as a maverick, a tornado, a man. But the Easy Rider’s assent to the big time was by no means an easy ride. “I remember one film we were shooting in 53” Recalls Henford Sandwell sound man on many of Hopper’s earlier projects. “We were all sitting round having lunch when Dennis stood up in the lunch hall and started clubbing his mashed potato with the flat of his palm. Again and again and again. He did this for about seven minutes before finally yelling ‘spuds don’t know shit, spuds don’t do shit’ and pouring his glass of milk around his plate like a mote.”
Hopper’s post Rider career did nothing but fuel his wild man image. In 1979 Hopper rocked up to the set of Apocalypse Now, in a battered ice cream van, on which he had spray painted “Hopper will smash your cone, off.” when asked where he would like the vehicle to be parked, Hopper, rather unhelpfully ordered “anywhere that bitch Coppola is pointing his camera.” Apocalypse Now  took six years to film, and in some shots you can still hear the echoes of Greensleeves chiming in the background, accompanied by the cackles of a drugged up Hopper.
But it was Hopper’s rebellious attitude that saw him break new ground in the world of directing. His directing debut “The Last Picture” pioneered the motif of not-letting-the-actors-know-what-the-lines-were-until-the-very-last-second. The results are mixed. Some actors dealt well with Hopper’s experimental style. Whereas other actors struggled, leading to the infamous “Can you stop filming, I can’t remember a single godam line of this horseshit” scene.
Sadly it was around this time that Hopper’s excesses started to catch up with him. Hopper frequently binged on a cocktail of drugs leading to erratic behaviour, such as insisting his house be filled with thirty thousand polling stations; and his attempted succession of the Pope on the grounds that Hopper was the only man to successfully drink the Bible.
Despite his misadventures, Hopper brought everything to the screen. He will no doubt be best remembered for his astonishing turns in such films as Blue Velvet, Waterworld and Speed, where his unhinged persona could find a home.
David Sanworth put it best when he said; “Dennis Hopper, oh wasn’t he in Anaconda?” No David, you’re thinking of Jon Voight, and what an amazing actor he was.

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