Dennis Hopper 1936-2010
I used to have this thing for sixties movies when I was a kid. Don’t ask me why, but I was into hippies and drugs and bikers waaay back then. As you can imagine, when local WPVI channel 6 showed Easy Rider on its Million Dollar Movie Friday nights at 11:30 PM – it was an event for me. I stayed up and marveled at the psychedelic exploits of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and this shaggy headed rebel named Dennis Hopper. This was the first time I had run into the man. He was a one-liner, comic relief almost, in Rider, but little did I know then that the man co-wrote and directed the flick. And the flick was one of the new wave of youth-oriented films that changed the way Hollywood made movies.
Hopper once again slid into my tunnel vision with his frightening performance in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Nightmarish, charismatic and dangerous – he had a lasting effect. I became a fan, and slowly became aware of his long and storied career.
Dennis Hopper, reputedly one of the bad boys of Hollywood was also one of its new wave of geniuses to come out the late 1960s. His career before Easy Rider was primarily in television and almost stretched back to its beginnings. After lots of TV westerns and some dramas, he jumped to the big screen in 1968 and began a long string of brilliance, whether it was a small part, or larger role in front or behind the camera – Hopper was one of the greats. He seemed to vanish in the 1970s but reemerged quickly in the early 1980s, thanks to roles like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.
After that it didn’t matter what you saw Hopper in, whether it was as the bad guy in Speed or the television series “24,” or in just silly stuff like Space Truckers or Super Mario Brothers – you knew you were going to get a hell of a performance. We have lost a true Hollywood legend in Dennis Hopper, and he will be missed.