American Icon - Dennis Hopper

One of the most colorful and charismatic American actors of our generation, Dennis Hopper, has finally succumbed to prostate cancer. He passed away surrounded by family and friends in his Venice, CA home on Saturday morning, May 29. As if dealing with cancer was not enough, Hopper was going through a very messy divorce battle with wife Victoria Duffy.Born May 17, 1936 in Dodge City, Kansas, Hopper was a regular fixture around Hollywood. His career included roles in some of the best or most well-known films in American cinema history. Hopper spent the first fifteen years of his career doing mostly television roles. However he did appear in two of James Dean’s three films, including 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause.

It was 1969’s Easy Rider (directed by Hopper), which also featured Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, that launched Dennis Hopper’s career. Easy Rider was made on a shoestring budget but still became a nation-wide phenomenon, helping to define what would become known as the counter-culture hippie generation. Hopper played Billy, half of an iconic duo, along with Wyatt (aka Captain America), played by Fonda (who also co-wrote the film). The picture made so much money that Hopper was able to indulge in his whims and darker demons over the next thirteen years, cementing his reputation as an erratic, difficult person to be around and to work with.

Dennis Hopper can rest proudly, knowing that his film resume stands up to any other Hollywood actor’s, and his legacy has been cemented via his extraordinary library of movies. He appeared in some of the most critically-acclaimed films of all time, including Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (as a photojournalist), the David Lynch bizarre classic Blue Velvet (as Frank Booth), Hoosiers (as Shooter), and even as Nintendo video game character King Koopa in Super Mario Bros (perhaps not the most serious of films, but it was fun none-the-less). Two of Hopper’s more memorable roles are as Clifford Worley, the father of Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) in the Quentin Tarantino written / Tony Scott directed, True Romance (one of my favorite movies of all-time) and as the villain (Howard Payne) in the Keaunu Reeves, Sandra Bullock blockbuster, Speed. Although his role in True Romance was small, he has a truly memorable exchange with Christopher Walken, explaining how Sicilains are part “black” due to cross breeding with the Sicilian women.

In the last decade Hopper has laid pretty low. He has appeared on the television show “24”, as a voice in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and starred in the critically acclaimed Starz original TV series, “Crash”, based on the incredible Academy Award winning Paul Haggis film.

Hopper was married five times and is survived by four children and two grandchildren. This includes a week long marriage to actress Michelle Phillips in 1970, and lastly, to the much younger Victoria Duffy. Hopper landed in the tabloids again earlier this month, when he filed for divorce from Duffy, citing irreconcilable differences. Rumors swirled that the divorce was in truth prompted by Hopper’s oldest daughter, Marin, and was principally inspired by a dispute over Hopper’s estate.

On March 18, 2010, it was announced that Hopper would be honored with the 2,403rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on iconic Hollywood Boulevard. Surrounded by friends and Hollywood luminaries including Jack Nicholson, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch, Michael Madsen, family, and fans, he attended its addition to the walk on March 26, 2010.

Treez says: Dennis Hopper might have been insane from the years of drugs and decadence in Hollywood, but there are very few actors, or people for that matter, that can say they lived life to the fullest. Dennis Hopper can say exactly that. This man was an incredible actor. Make it a point to see something Dennis Hopper was in that you have not watched yet. You will thank me!