Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper (1936 - 2010)

Dennis Hopper, best remembered as the star and director of the unlikely hit "Easy Rider" passed away last night at the age of 74 in his home. Hopper began his Hollywood career in two James Dean films but soon developed a reputation for throwing tantrums and abusing alcohol and drugs.

His big break came when he collaborated with Peter Fonda on a script about two pot-smoking, drug-dealing hippies on a cross-country motorcycle trip. The film, "Easy Rider" was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films.

With Hopper hailed as a brilliant filmmaker, Hopper was given $850,000 for his next project, "The Last Movie." But no thanks to his drug and drink addictions, it took Hopper nearly a year to edit the movie that eventually crashed and burned at the box office, forcing him to leave Hollywood to find work in Europe. He made a memorable comeback in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic "Apocalpyse Now" and slowly worked his way around Hollywood once more with roles in the 1980s movies "Rumblefish", "The Osterman Weekend", "My Science Project" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2".

More recently, he was seen in the 1994 hit "Speed" as its maniacal villain and in Kevin Costner's box-office bomb "Waterworld". Fans of "24" will also recall his role as the Serbian mobster Victor Drazen in the TV series' second season. He also subsequently starred in "Hell Ride"- a Grindhouse-inspired film- and the critically-acclaimed "Elegy" better known for Ben Kingsley's powerful performance.

For his 50-plus odd years in Hollywood, Dennis Hopper was awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 2010 and though he appeared to receive the award, he was already looking frail from his longstanding battle against prostrate cancer. Thanks to his erratic habits, Hopper will always be remembered as Hollywood's wild child, but let that not diminish his achievements that include roles in some of the best or most well-known films from each decade of the last half-century. 

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