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Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper: Interviews

Edited by Nick Dawson
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Dennis Hopper
    Book Description:

    The legendary Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) had many identities. He first broke into Hollywood as a fresh-faced young actor in the 1950s, redefined himself as a rebel director withEasy Riderin the late 1960s, and became a bad boy outcast for much of the 1970s. He returned in the 1980s with standout performances in films likeBlue VelvetandHoosiers, was one of the great blockbuster baddies of the 1990s, and ended his career as a ubiquitous actor in genre movies.

    Hopper, however, was much more than just an actor and director: he was also a photographer, a painter, and an art collector--not to mention a longtime hedonist who kicked his addiction to drugs and alcohol and became a poster boy for sobriety.Dennis Hopper: Interviewscovers every decade of his career, featuring conversations from 1957 through to 2009, and not only captures him at the significant points of his tumultuous time in Hollywood but also focuses on the lesser-known aspects of the man. In this fascinating and highly entertaining volume--the first ever collection of Hopper's interviews--he talks in depth about film, photography, art, and his battles with substance abuse and, in one instance, even takes the role of interviewer as he talks with Quentin Tarantino.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-048-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    I met Dennis Hopper in June 2009, just under a year before his death. It was in Las Vegas, at the CineVegas Film Festival where Hopper was chair of the Creative Advisory Board. I was there to do a Q&A with Jon Voight following a screening of the director’s cut ofLookin’ to Get Out, a Vegasset gambling comedy starring and co-written by Voight, and directed by Hal Ashby. (I had uncovered the film while researching my bookBeing Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel.)

    I was in Jon Voight’s room at the Palms Hotel a few hours before...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  6. No Margin for Error
    (pp. 3-4)

    “In this business,” Dennis Hopper says seriously, “there’s no margin for error. You have to grow up all of a sudden.” Even at the rate Dennis has moved, he has. Only twenty, the blond newcomer is being cheered for his work as Rock Hudson’s son inGiant. Yet Dennis once seemed a kid with his head in the clouds. He was the eager movie fan, haunting Saturday matinees back home in Dodge City, Kansas. Hardly into his teens, he began acting in school plays, won contests by declaiming scenes from Shakespeare and O’Neill. “My parents thought I was going to...

  7. Rebel from Dodge City
    (pp. 5-9)
    Jane Wilkie

    Fifteen years ago this summer, the body of a famous movie cowboy was transported from California to the East, and as the train sped across the shimmering Kansas plains, the actor received a final, unknown tribute from a very small boy. Standing in his grandfather’s wheat field, no taller than the young grain itself, the tow-headed youngster waved frantically as the train passed, and kept waving until long after the thin black line was out of sight.

    To Dennis Hopper, age five, death meant very little. All he knew was that his beloved cowboy, dearer to him than anyone in...

  8. Spotlight!: The Hollywood Scene
    (pp. 10-11)

    “I’ve always wanted to be a director,” Dennis Hopper declares, “ever since I walked onto a set when I was eighteen and realized that an actor couldn’t fulfill himself on film, that the director had complete creative control. But untilEasy Rider, I didn’t have the chance.” Dennis was wearing a double-breasted striped suit, elephant-hide boots, a battered cowboy hat over brown hair falling to his shoulders. He is thirty-four now, and his face is gaunt. “It’s really hard to raise the money for a project in Hollywood. The film distributors have you in their grip, and a lot of...

  9. Easy Rider: A Very American Thing
    (pp. 12-22)
    L. M. Kit Carson

    Dennis Hopper, coauthor, director, and costar of the Columbia filmEasy Rider, was interviewed by L. M. Kit Carson immediately after the first press screening in New York City last summer. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

    Question: How did this film start? With what? With whom?

    Answer: It started with Peter [Fonda] calling me on the telephone, saying he had an idea for a movie about two guys who smuggle cocaine, sell it, go across the country for Mardi Gras, and get killed by a couple of duck hunters because they have long hair. “Do you...

  10. Dennis Hopper Makes The Last Movie in Peru
    (pp. 23-31)
    Edwin Miller

    Dennis Hopper stands in a cobblestone alley in Cuzco, ancient sun-bleached capital of the Inca, over eleven thousand feet high in the Peruvian Andes. Wearing a cowboy’s Stetson over shaggy brown hair, a crumpled chambray work shirt with a bandanna, blue jeans, and scuffed boots, he looks as if he has just stepped down from his motorbike inEasy Rider, that burning vision of contemporary violence in which he costars with Peter Fonda. Directing and starring in his new film, which he callsThe Last Movie, Dennis ignores a swarm of curious ragged Indians with swarthy brown faces and coal-black...

  11. Dennis Hopper Saves the Movies
    (pp. 32-49)
    Tom Burke

    The room in the hotel in the Andes is small and green; air hangs in it dense as moss, because Dennis Hopper prefers to keep his drapes drawn, especially at night. He has been living in the room for almost two months, while directing himself in the starring role of a movie that he conceived and wrote (with a scenarist, but it’s Dennis’s show, fade-in to fade-out), and wanted to make in Mexico, and then decided to make in Peru because the Mexican government had seenEasy Riderand told him that, if he came there to work, all the...

  12. Dennis Hopper: Triple Threat Talent
    (pp. 50-53)
    Movies Now

    Dennis Hopper has been called many things. Perhaps the most accurate is complete artist, a “hyphenate”: artist-actor-director.

    “Da Vinci made a horse out of clay. It was a giant work, five times the normal size. It took him five years to complete. When the war broke out, soldiers shot arrows into the horse. Da Vinci could never recast it again,” Dennis began.

    That was the image evoked by a simple stick horse made of fireworks by the South American Indians in his latest film venture,The Last Movie.

    “They are really beautiful people,” he smiled, “I miss being there.


  13. Dennis Hopper
    (pp. 54-58)
    Jerry Bauer

    “Good surviving evil? I have very seldom seen it happen. Yet most children are told that it does. I think the feeling today is kick your brother, turn him into yourself. If you play the game with him, he’ll play it with you. Make him over in your corporate image.”

    Dennis Hopper’s clear blue eyes seemed to reflect the anxieties and uncertainties of today, as he sat talking over lunch at the Hotel Excelsior on the Venice Lido in Italy. Dennis and a band of actors had arrived the day before to presentThe Last Movie, his complex non-movie allegory,...

  14. Gallery Interview: Dennis Hopper
    (pp. 59-90)
    Lawrence Linderman and Dennis Hopper

    In the last decade, perhaps no American director has had such a significant effect on U.S. filmmaking as Hollywood’s most gifted enfant terrible, Dennis Hopper. InEasy Rider, his anthem of the Aquarian Age, Hopper captured the imagination of a generation—while also demonstrating that low-budget films could result in unprecedented, high-level profits. Produced at a cost of only $425,000,Easy Riderhad already grossed nearly $50 million prior to its re-release this fall. Additionally, the movie also rescued the sagging cinema careers of its three stars—Peter Fonda, Hopper, and Jack Nicholson—all of whom had then seemed destined...

  15. Dennis Hopper: Easy Rider on a Bum Trip
    (pp. 91-99)
    Arthur Bell

    “I can see myself living in the wilderness with my wife and baby—no shortwave radio, no phone, lots of owls—yeah, owls, yeah—and herds of elks and petrified dinosaurs. Wow! A petrified forest—the nearest neighbor, sixty miles away. I won’t miss much, I won’t miss anything, man. I won’t miss the money. I won’t miss the movies. I won’t miss shit.”

    Dennis Hopper is dreaming in the Rose Room of the Algonquin Hotel where Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott hunted dinosaurs forty-five years ago. Dennis is in his cups. He’s had his third drink and...

  16. Rebel Without a Pause
    (pp. 100-111)
    Mark Goodman

    When Dennis Hopper first moved to Taos in 1970, it was something less than the social utopia that D. H. Lawrence and Mabel Dodge had envisioned when they arrived in these New Mexican highlands in the 1920s. No fewer than thirty hippie communes had blossomed here on the highest plateau west of Tibet, but their flowered love was not returned by the local police or the tough high school Chicanos. In what must be the grisliest example of insult to injury on recent American record, gangs of young machos were castrating the boys and raping their girl friends. And that’s...

  17. An Interview with Dennis Hopper: Is the Country Catching Up to Him?
    (pp. 112-115)
    Lewis Archibald and Dennis Hopper

    “My daughter, my twenty-year-old daughter, told me a couple of weeks ago: ‘Dad, if you’re never remembered for anything else, you’ll be remembered for saying ‘Man’ more times than any other actor in films.”

    Dennis Hopper laughs lightly at the thought—it’s not the high snicker he and so many other young actors of the fifties perfected when they were playing Sweet Sixteen psychos or teenage killers aching to go up against Rock Hudson or Alan Ladd—but a rueful sound.

    It’s hard to think of Dennis Hopper, the anti-Establishment kid, the hippie extraordinaire, the creator ofEasy Riderand...

  18. Head of Hopper
    (pp. 116-120)
    Robert Morales

    Made in 1980,Out of the Blueis a ninety-minute feature chock full of sex, violence, drug abuse, death, and emotional outbursts—or at least enough to keep one’s attention, if the surprising plot twists and stylish examination of about a dozen cultural conflicts fall short. It is the third film to be directed by Dennis Hopper, who although only signed on for a supporting role, stepped in to save the film when its original writer-director walked off the project. Hopper threw out much of the plot—essentially a TV-movie tearjerker about a troubled teenage runaway, saved by a shrink...

  19. Citizen Hopper
    (pp. 121-134)
    Chris Hodenfield

    Sure, Dennis Hopper says, he really did once sit in a circle of exploding dynamite. It was all part of a retrospective of his life’s work, called, fittingly enough, “Art on the Edge.” It happened about four years ago, shortly before he had himself committed.

    After an exhibition of Hopper’s movies and photographs at Rice University in Houston, culture lovers expected to see Hopper make an appearance. But those filing into the auditorium found instead a barrage of images being flashed on the screen, and sound booming from the seats and walls. A closed-circuit hookup beamed the image of Hopper,...

  20. True Colors
    (pp. 135-140)
    Bill Kelley

    AfterThe Last Moviein 1971, Dennis Hopper couldn’t get hired in Hollywood to direct traffic. According to Hopper, Universal viewed the film—with its nonlinear narrative and flirtation with abstract expressionism—as “an attack on Hollywood.” (His only other directorial job since was the 1982 Canadian productionOut of the Blue.) The bad rep that Hopper assiduously nourished made it hard for him to get work even as an actor, except for some independent and foreign productions, until his much-ballyhooed comeback in 1986 withBlue Velvet, closely followed byRiver’s Edge.

    Now Hopper is directing again. Last May, he...

  21. Showing His True Colors
    (pp. 141-143)
    Rod Lurie

    Among all the stories written about him over the years, Dennis Hopper can still point to the one article that infuriated him most.

    “I was on the cover ofLifemagazine in 1970, holding a football, a flower, and wearing a suit and tie and cowboy hat,” he was explaining in a New York hotel room recently. “The first paragraph of the article said, ‘Trouble follows Dennis Hopper like a pet anaconda. His friends in Hollywood say that Hopper has drank, swallowed, and shot every drug known to man.’

    “At that time, I had never shot any drugs. That really...

  22. Larry Flynt at Home: Dennis Hopper/Terry Southern
    (pp. 144-152)
    Jean Stein

    Dennis Hopper: I decided I was going to blow myself up at the Big H Speedway—something I saw at the rodeo when I was a kid. They called it “the human stick of dynamite.” I was convinced that somebody was trying to make a hit on me, and it would be easier to kill me if I was doing this. If I lived through it, then I was destined to live for a while. The stunt man who helped me put the thing together said, “You’ll be disoriented for a few weeks.” Little did he fucking know. A week...

  23. Blood Lust Snicker Snicker in Wide Screen
    (pp. 153-161)
    Dennis Hopper

    Dennis Hopper: I heard one story, I don’t know how true it is, that you started out in a video store.

    Quentin Tarantino: Yeah, uh huh. Well, it’s funny. Actually I started out as an actor. I studied acting for six years—for three years with the actor James Best, then for three years with Alan Garfield. That’s been my only formal training. I never went to film school or anything like that. And then—I was right at the point, after studying acting for years and years and years, when it comes time to actually go out and start...

  24. Dennis Hopper On His Best Behavior: Iconoclastic Actor Is a Far Cry from Menacing Roles
    (pp. 162-165)
    Jay Boyar

    Dennis Hopper, OK.

    You’re thinking sharp claws and bad temper, right? So far off the wall that he ain’t even in the room?

    But that Dennis Hopper—the flaky menace you sense behind the monstrous fetishist inBlue Velvetor the sociopathic bomber in the exciting newSpeed—is not the man who showed up for a tribute at the third annual Florida Film Festival.

    The Dennis Hopper who flew into town this month, took his three-and-a-half-year-old son to Walt Disney World, and pecked at questions from the sold-out tribute audience at Enzian Theater was a man on his best...

  25. Dennis Hopper
    (pp. 166-170)
    David Dodd

    I had built in such a strong endorsement for drinking and using drugs because, after all, I was an artist and it was okay for artists to do that. All my heroes as painters, poets, or actors were all alcoholics or drug addicts. So to me it was my right, my God-given right, to take and use drugs. It became my task. I had to do it or I would never achieve the things I wanted, so I thought.

    That was all fine and good until I got sober and realized that my drinking and using behavior may have been...

  26. Dennis Hopper with Tony Shafrazi
    (pp. 171-181)
    Tony Shafrazi and Dennis Hopper

    Most people know Dennis Hopper for the indelible characters he’s invented over more than forty years. His career spans from classics likeRebel Without a Causein the mid-fifties andEasy Riderin the sixties,Apocalypse Nowin the late seventies, cult hitsBlue VelvetandRiver’s Edgein the eighties, to the nineties mega-blockbusterSpeed. Once you’ve seen him in these movies, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing those parts. And when you look back on many of the films that he’s directed—Easy Rider, The Last Movie, Out of the Blue, Colors—they have an uncanny way...

  27. American Psycho
    (pp. 182-189)
    Lynn Barber

    A maid lets me in through the steel door, into a sort of auditorium with a large broken sculpture on a stage. It is a Dennis Hopper work called Bomb Drop currently awaiting repair. The seats of the auditorium are all piled high with framed photographs, again by Dennis Hopper, and there is a hologram of a sinister man in silhouette (Dennis Hopper?) overlooking the stage. This auditorium leads into a hangar-like room which has a giant flat-screen television and furniture made of crinkled cardboard. Across the room are several sliding screens for storing paintings, and a steel staircase going...

  28. Dennis Hopper
    (pp. 190-192)
    Interview and Dennis Hopper

    Q: Where were you born?

    A: [laughs] Dodge City, Kansas.

    Q: When and where did you first say to yourself, “I want to be in the movies”?

    A: I came out of the Dust Bowl, and when I went to the theater with my grandmother and saw my first films—singing cowboys. I wanted to be in movies. I wanted to know where they made them. I wanted to know how they made them. And I also wanted to get out of Dodge. [laughs]

    Q: What’s the thing that made the world first sit up and take notice of you?...

  29. Dennis Hopper Is Riding Easy
    (pp. 193-209)
    Alex Simon

    The Hollywood landscape is littered with tragedies, broken promise, and self-destruction. Many promising artists stumble once and never recover from that initial fall. In the history of American film, there has never been a phoenix-like story of survival and rebirth quite like that of Dennis Hopper, who has gone from Warner Bros. contract player in his late teens, to Hollywood outcast, to renowned artist, photographer, and art collector, to the man who brought independent cinema into the mainstream withEasy Rider, to being outcast again and nearly destroyed during a period of heavy drug and alcohol abuse. There are single...

  30. Additional Resources
    (pp. 210-212)
  31. Index
    (pp. 213-222)