In Speed, DENNIS HOPPER plays a mad bomber with a serious aversion to public transport. Bob McCabe meets the king of psychos and finds out why he loves to play the bad guy.
didn’t like the script. I read it and I said,
“This is never going to work”.’ Honesty is
a rare trait in a movie star on the promotion
trail. but then Dennis Hopper has never
been a conventional movie star. His latest
role. in Speed. sees him playing true to form as a psychotic bomber wiring a downtown bus to explode if it drops below 50 mph during morning rush hour. The movie, co-starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. turned out to be this summer’s sleeper hit in the States, crashing through the $100 million barrier with ease. Hopper however. almost didn’t sign up for the ride.
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6 The List 23 September—6 October 1994
‘I felt none of the characters had any back stories, you never knew who they were. My character had no motivation at all. You don’t know where I’ve been. where I’m going. When asked, “Why are you doing these tliings'.”’. I
wish I had a loftier reason, but I‘m doing it for
the money and that’s it. There’s no character.‘ Appearing surprisingly debonair considering that ever present manic look lurking behind the eyes, and the fact that his head is currently shaved for an upcoming role in Kevin Costner’s epic Water-imrld, Hopper is more than ready to admit his apprehensions were misplaced. ‘When I saw the movie, in my opinion — and l
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like to think of myself as a critic of sorts —I feel that this film really has to redeﬁne my preconceived ideas about what drama is because you don’t need to know who this person is. When I push a button in this movie, you don’t need to know why things happened.’
Working on the movie for a total of four weeks, Hopper’s scenes found him isolated from the action and his co-stars — ‘My character basically is in a room alone with a script girl’ — ensuring that what he finally saw up on the screen was as immediate and visceral for him as it was for the rest of the audience.
Hopper made the perfect villain because here was a man who really walked on the dark side, dug deep into his darkest corners and lived to tell the tale. In short, Dennis Hopper gives good psycho.
‘Being as jaded as l am, especially about movies. and having been 40 years in the business, for me to say I learned things from a director — I don’t. But I came in here and I learned a lot from Jan DeBont. He basically shot my scenes in these rooms with four to five cameras at once, so it was like doing a stage play. I wasn’t just doing a little piece of the dialogue, I’d do three pages at once. And I’d say, “But how can you do all this, how can you light all this? Isn’t the camera going to run into the other camera?” And he’d say, “Yeah, but the shot will be over by the time it runs into the other camera because I’ll already be picking it up on the other camera." And it was quite wonderful.’
Hopper’s career in Hollywood now spans five decades. After initial early success co-starring alongside his self-proclaimed idol James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause and Giant, Hopper followed Dean’s path to the Actors Studio in
Playing true to tonn, Hopper as the psychotlc bomber In Speed