Hopper, Dennis Lee

Hopper, Dennis Lee, 1936-2010, American filmmaker and actor, b. Dodge City, Ks. Hopper’s family relocated several times during his childhood, settling in San Diego when he was 13 years old. Hopper studied acting there, making his film debut in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) followed by Giant (1956), both supporting James Dean, who became a friend/mentor. He moved to New York in 1959 to study at the Actors Studio. Hopper appeared in a few films through the end of the ‘60s, when he directed and starred in Easy Rider (1969), a defining movie of the ‘60s. Its followup, The Last Movie (1970), was a major disappointment, and Hopper’s career again went into eclipse. He made a comeback beginning with Apocalypse Now (1979), playing a manic photo-journalist in Vietnam. Long suffering from addiction to cocaine, Hopper entered rehab in 1983, returning to prominence portraying the villains in Blue Velvet (1986) and Speed (1994). He continued to act in films through his death. Besides his work as an actor, Hopper established himself as an artist working as a photographer, painter, and sculptor.

See his Out of the ‘60s (1986), Dennis Hopper: Photographs, 1961-67 (2009); biography by P.L. Winkler (2011); interviews, N. Dawson, ed. (2012); study by J. Hoberman (1988).

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