DENNIS HOPPER FEATURE
New York in pursuit ofthe ‘method’. By the mid 60$. Hopper was opting more for getting high than getting work. Thankfully, when he got high he took a camera along for the trip. The resultant Easy Rider proved to be a touchstone movie for a generation and a financial hit that alerted Hollywood to the profitability of the youth movie. The 705. however. saw Hopper succumbing to the proverbial drink and drugs problems (a recent survey in the US had l5 per cent of Americans saying he should go back on drugs. ‘When it hits 60. I’ll start thinking about it.’). Hopper was ‘doing’ rehab long before it was fashionable and he spent the mid 80s sorting himself out. Just as it seemed he would never fulfil his early promise. Hopper re-emerged. creating one of cinema’s greatest villains. the violent emotional terrorist Frank Booth in David Lynch’s startling Blue Velvet. Whether it stemmed from having wrestled his personal demons to the ground. Hopper made the perfect villain because here was a man who had 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.
‘I finally realised after years of trying to answer the question. “Are you really a bad guy. is there something in your past you’re not telling us. are you getting it off on the screen and don’t have to do it in life anymore?” I finally realised. my background is Shakespeare and I started when l was thirteen until 1 was eighteen and I went under contract to Warner Brothers. doing Shakespeare at the old Globe theatre in San Diego. What are the great characters in Shakespeare? Every one of them’s a psychotic. from Hamlet to Macbeth to King Lear, they’re all schizophrenic, paranoiac madmen. These are the great parts. and I happen to never be offered the good guys parts. so I play these others and they’re fun to play. and very interesting to do actually.’
1994 has so far seen both the 25th anniversaries of Woodstock and the Manson killings — ‘I actually went and saw him in prison because he killed a lot of my friends.’ There is another anniversary however. that has almost passed by unrecognised -— Hopper’s directorial debut. the seminal Easy Rider hit the quarter- century mark.
‘I started doing it in 1967. edited it in 1968 and it came out in l969. A lot had happened in the 60s that had no reflection of what was going on at all in cinema. I mean it was the first time that marijuana was smoked without someone going out and killing a bunch of nurses. It was the first time that I actually took music off the radio and put it together with a movie. And it was the first time it addressed our generation. our time. what was going on in the civilisation. and I did it at the time consciously thinking I would do this movie and it would be like a time capsule. so someone could go back and look at this period of time and know what was going on. The whole country was in a riot. the whole country was burning down. there was a revolution going on. So, I thought of all those things.’
Back in 1990. Hopper discussed his interest in making a long-discussed sequel to Easy Rider. a science fiction epic called Biker Heaven set in a post-apocalyptic future where marauding biker gangs. well, maraud. Wisely. Hopper has now abandoned this notion.
‘There’s never going to be an Easy Rider 2. it’s never going to be made. But it would be interesting to see a re-release of Easy Rider and have it reviewed and looked at again as a film.
because I think without the shock value. without the kind of perception it had at the moment when it came out. I think it would be interesting to really look at it as a film and see what political significance it had and how it really was talking about putting all of our money into a gas tank. before the Arab crisis and before the oil crunch and before all those things. And what the acid trip really was addressing. and what it really meant on an emotional. spiritual and religious level. And also about the responsibility you have living in a free country. and how if you have too much of a criminal element in your society you’re really destroying your own freedom and how the guys Peter (Fonda) and I play really aren‘t heroes but criminals.‘
The science fiction backdrop of Biker Heaven will never see the light ofday. but Hopper — sans hair — will get to perform in the same milieu courtesy of Kevin Costner.
‘l’m doing a heavy in Kevin Costner‘s movie Waterworld. which ironically is the most expensive movie ever made to date. it’s going to be budgeted at $180 million. I play this great villain called the Deacon. lt’s Mad Max on
water. it’s basically the year 2800 and we’ve screwed up the environment and the polarice caps have melted and it’s a water world and there’s no land anymore. I’m the Deacon. a warrior priest who’s determined to find land and as soon as he finds it he’s going to drill for oil and he’s gonna make an eighteen-hole golf course.’
Meanwhile. as he prepared to jet off to the Hawaii location of Costncr’s eco-conscious epic. Hopper is content to bask in the success of his first $100 million grossing movie Speed. as well as slag off the competition.
‘l’ve had woman after woman after woman come to me and say my husband dragged me to see this movie. and I hate action movies. but I loved Speed.” because they find it really romantic. Have you seen Blown Away? You see this movie. there‘s love and care in this movie. these characters have back stories. you know what their past was like and you know what they’re going to do if they get out of this movie alive. But by God. it is so boring. I went “Thank God I’m in Speed”. I really did.‘ LJ Speed opens in St.‘()I/(m(1 on Fri 30 Sept.
Dennis Hopper in (top) Speed and (bottom) alongside Peter Fonda in Easy Rider i
The List 23 September—6 ()ctohcr IWJ 7