Dennis Hopper Biography

Dennis Hopper photo

Born: May 17, 1936


Date of Birth: May 17, 1936

If we had to sum up Hopper's career in one word, it would be... interesting. The renegade actor has been around for over 40 years, enjoying numerous ups and suffering countless downs.

He started in films as a second lead in the James Dean mold, sharing the screen with Dean in Rebel Without A Cause and Giant. But his rebellious nature stymied any attempts to further his career, and soon he could only find minor supporting roles or leads in B-movies like Planet of Blood and The Glory Stompers.

That all changed with Easy Rider. The ultimate anti-establishment hippie flick (and a permanent cinematic classic, man) was directed by Hopper, and written with his buddy and co-star Peter Fonda. The film established Hopper as an exciting new filmmaker, a reputation he quickly destroyed with his next film, the pretentious and self-indulgent The Last Movie.

Abandoned by the Hollywood that embraced him two years earlier, Hopper found steady work in Europe. His drug use and temperment had made him virtually unhirable, until Francis Ford Coppola cast him in Apocalypse Now. It was quite a risk: you can see how strung out Hopper was in a documentary on the making of the film, Hearts Of Darkness - A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.

After Apocalypse Now his career skidded, except for a finely tuned performance in Coppola's Rumble Fish. But by 1985 Hopper was clearly Running Out Of Luck.

The rehabilitation of his reputation began in 1986 with his intensely bizarre portrayal of gas-sniffing pervert Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. That year he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor—for his gentle, subdued performance as an alcoholic in Hoosiers, rather than the edgier weirdness of Blue Velvet.

Hopper's career has flourished since, with marvelously subtle performances in Basquiat and River's Edge, and over-the-top scenery chewing in Waterworld and Speed—plus the occasional time out to parody his Easy Rider persona in Flashback and Riders Of The Storm.

In 2005, he landed a starring role as Colonel McNulty opposite Benjamin Bratt in the new NBC drama series E-Ring, set inside the Pentagon. Hopper married his fifth wife, Victoria, in 1996. They have a daughter, Galen, born in 2003. He has three other children from previous marriages. In the final months of his life, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Hopper became embroiled in a bitter divorce battle with his Victoria. He passed away on May 29, 2010.

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