Saturday, May 29, 2010
DENNIS HOPPER R.I.P.
I met Hopper a few times during my years in Hollywood. He always seemed like a pretty nice man to me. Though there was a period when for whatever reason people started saying I reminded them of him, and once in a bar a drunk insisted I WAS Hopper and trying to not be noticed.
I have to admit, I didn't like being compared to him in any way, looks or acting. Because I wasn't crazy about Hopper, the actor, for a long time.
When I was a kid and first saw him in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, my reaction was that he didn't look like any teenager I knew, and that I didn't like the way he looked or acted in that flick anyway.
As I got older and saw him in other movies, and on TV, I still didn't enjoy watching him on screen as I did other actors.
Then came EASY RIDER and I liked him even less. I had objections to the ways in which people I thought I knew pretty well, or their type, were portrayed in the film. But of course I dug the soundtrack and aspects of the film, like Jack Nicholson's star-making performance, a lot more than I did Hopper's character and screen presence.
Like I said, in person I found him to be a pretty regular guy, but somehow on screen he always bugged me. Until I saw him in 1977 in THE AMERICAN FRIEND (or DER AMERIKANISCHE FREUND), directed by one of my favorite directors, Wim Wenders, and starring one of my favorite movie actors, Bruno Ganz. Somehow, what usually bothered me in Hopper's screen presence and performances didn't in this movie and I could finally see something I could dig in his acting.
After that there were plenty of Hopper performances I could dig, even during the years I would run into him here and there in Hollywood (I assume you get when I use that term I mean the movie and TV business around L.A. in general). Like HOOSIERS or BLUE VELVET. Even during those few years when for some reason people kept saying how much we looked alike, as much as that bugged me I still could dig his performances.
In fact at one party we talked for a while about being taken for each other. I don't know if he was humoring me or meant it, but he made it seem like it happened to him as often as it was happening to me at the time. Like I said, he always came across to me as a pretty regular guy, although I heard stories from friends who spent more time with him in working situations (films) or socially, and they had other experiences.
The main thing about him, to me, is that he managed to survive such a competitive and cut throat business with some kind of artistic integrity intact. After all he was on TV and in movies as far back as 1954 and as recently as, well, his latest performances haven't even been released yet. And the amount of roles he played, phew, puts Michael Caine to shame.
The man was a survivor. Until now. And even then. For a guy who lived the life, 74 is more than a lot of us might have expected. And as much as his last days were tabloid drenched in his impending will problems, he had an enormous impact right up until the end on our culture and consciousness. May he rest in peace indeed.