A Long But Not Always Easy Rider

Get Out of Dodge

The fan-club is getting ready to celebrate the big sixty sixth birthday of Dennis Hopper who will have had that event on May 17th of 2002. Dodge City, Kansas did not know they would had another potential 'outlaw' in their midst in 1936 with their new baby boy.

Non Standard Education

The records show that the young Dennis Hopper began his dramatic education in the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. It would be later after struggles in the movie industry that he would study under Lee Strasburg at his Actor Studio in New York in the late fifties.

Bit Part in a Cult Favorite

How fitting it is that Dennis' first film contribution was in that 1955 James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo vehicle of legends; and carried some other curiosities like Nick Adams and Jim Backus, Rebel Without a Cause. But, he was just another one of the many 'hoods' that frame this four star picture of an adolescent version of "Film Noire." Natalie Wood was riding in his car when he had an accident, and she gave director Nicholas Ray's number to the police in lieu of her father's. I suppose the other film of that year, two star I Died a Thousand Times, which featured Lon Chaney as well as Jack Palance and Lee Marvin, where he played 'Joe', was prophetic in some sort of way. The development of his acting style was forming with some of these experiences, and in 1956 he move up another notch with his broody role of Jordon Benedict III in Giant that George Stevens' Oscar winning directed modern western spectacle that starred Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. (Perhaps it was the latter's influence that caused Hopper's several marriage problems, but we will get to that further on.)

Bigger Parts

He was now getting cast regularly in back up roles, predominately in westerns: Billy Clanton in 1957's Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1958 Tom Boyd in From Hell to Texas, and in 1959 he was Hatfield Carnes in The Young Land. He played himself in The James Dean Story in 1957 and that same year was Napolean in The Story of Mankind, and did a voice-over for Sayonara. His fight with director Henry Hathaway in From Hell to Texas started his eight years blacklisting in Hollywood, he lost a contract to Warner Brothers, and he went to New York.

West and Beyond

The 1960's provided more opportunities for westerns: 1960 - Cowboy, 1967 -Hang 'Em High and the money making horror movies: 1966- Planet of Blood, or Queen of Blood; but more importantly he started to sit in the Assistant Director's chair in 1967. But, earlier after studying under Strasburg, he starred as Johnny in the mis-defined 1961 black and white Curtis Harrington art-film, Night Tide. The movie, not released for several years, is a romantic, but eerie fish-story predating Splash by almost a quarter of a century. Now in those circles, Hopper hooked up with Andy Warhol in 1964, and he was in his sixteen millimeter film, Tarzan and Jane Regained.

Rebel With a Chastisement

In the mid-sixties, more pragmatic to the behavioral standards of the big studios, Hopper now got work in Los Angeles again, and one notable contribution is his work in, ironically, Hathaway's The Sons of Katie Elder where he breaks under John Wayne's pressure to give up his bad-guy father who killed his and brothers Dean Martin mother. This same director also worked with Hopper as the astronaut in Queen of Blood, and he teamed up in 1967 with horror specialist Roger Corman in that mental travelogue, The Trip now Dennis was hooked up with Fonda, Henry's son, Peter. What a great movie he was in in 1967 with Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (another must have flick). A 1968 movie made for (what should be many on E2's fave) the Monkees followed, co-written by The Trip's author, Jack Nicholson (the other writer is director Bob Rafelson {Five Easy Pieces}), featuring also Sonny Liston and Victor Mature, The Head. This last year of the decade he played Moon Garrett in another John Wayne classic True Grit in which he crossed paths with Glen Campbell.

Making Movies is a Trip (Literally)

All the ingredients were there: a screenplay writer, (but Terry Southern, not Jack) a freaked out character actor, a handsome leading man, and everyone was so hip. I only fantasize it went like this: "Hey man, let's make a movie, and we'll get stoned (or worse) when the corresponding role calls for it, and what great overhead to buy two great chopped Harley's!" The result of this 1969 Fonda and Hopper independent minded and budgeted flick ((where scenes were done as realistically as possible) is none other than this writer's most vaunted: Easy Rider. The major studios were never the same after this most successful young boomers/hippie/biker avant-garde infinitesimally financed three-and-a-half star film highly lauded at the Cannes Film Festival actually made money; and it received two Oscar nominations. They tied experimental film (Lazlo Kovaks' cinematography excels) with a soundtrack that offered such a variety from Steppenwolf and Hendrix to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and on down. How could one ever forget the bikes crossing the Mississippi River and If 6 was 9's thick guitar intro kicking in. This movie not only featured Karen Black, but had Phil Spector's involvement. It became the source of faction for many years between the two producers as Peter Fonda some how got the most money back for the project. Another interesting story out of this: when filming in the deep south they had to tell the rural locals hired as extras (that hated long-hairs) that Fonda and Hopper were only actors with wigs, they really were not that way.

Living the Part

Though Hopper made an interesting documentary, The American Dreamer and a far-out, in more ways than its Peruvian location, Western, The Last Movie this last attempt --that portrayed aboriginal peoples imitating horse operas with real bullets from the observed fictional version being filmed near them --was too far over the heads of the purchasing public, and only now does it have that esoteric following. (He married a therapist, Daria Halprin in 1972 in a bond that lasted four years, and produced a daughter, Ruthana Hopper in 1974; and in 1961 another girl, Marin Hopper {mother: Brooke Hayward}. His most famous marriage was the very short one to the ex Mamas and Papas' Michelle Phillips. He has a son, Henry Lee Hopper from his marriage to Katherine LaNasa in 1989, which lasted until 1992 when he met his present spouse, Victoria Duffy with whom he tied the knot in 1996.) The seventies were a troubled time for Dennis as his partying days caught up to him, he found work in Europe, but towards the end of the decade his acting revived in 1977's The American Friend and moreover, his weirdo reporter in the 1979 Apocalypse Now.

Maturity Matriculation

The highly regarded movie from 1986, Blue Velvet was a far cry from Bobby Vinton's as Hopper's ability to bring the frenetic villain Frank Booth to life in this David Lynch original is frightening in itself. Once again Art proves to be uncomfortable when too blatant, even if unforgettable. The eighties saw Hopper do some work on the small screen as wel. as several other movies, including The Osterman Weekend in 1983 and The Pickup Artist in 1987; River's Edge; as well as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 sequel. Another of this writer's most memorable cinematic milestones is Colors that Dennis directed in 1988 with Sean Penn as the new rookie cop under Robert Duvall dealing with the 'color' wearing gangs of L.A. He directed a relatively-heroic drifter-turned-car-salesman in a covertly corrupt little Texas town -- Don Johnson -- in The Hot Spot in 1990. By 1991, Hopper played consistently older, less frenzied characters, though somewhat personality flawed like 91's CIA agent Double-Crossed, even dabbling in comedy, as witnessed in his bad guy in Paris Trout. Anyone who saw 1993's True Romance and his scene as Christian Slater's father cruelly interrogated by Christopher Walken knows why he would be cast to say the words penned by Quentin Tarantino. Besides more TV spots, he hit pay dirt in 1994 for Speed, but, of course, Kevin Costner's 1995 Waterworld had no such critical or box office acclaim. He flows into the comedic roles as witnessed in Carried Away released in 1996. He has been in more than two dozen different endeavors in the late nineties; and besides other engagements, LAPD: To Protect and to Serve in 2001;p and his latest four projects are: Firestarter: Rekindled, The Piano Player, Flatland, and he has planned Leopold Bloom for 2003.


As late as 2005 he stars as an Army lifer Colonel at the Pentagon in a mini-series on NBC, The e-Ring. There were going to be plans at one time for him to be in a comedy on that network as well.


He serves as one of the most successful relic the celluloid art as transitioned from the fifties to the new millennium.


Dennis Hopper is an avid collector of contemporary art, an obsession started in the 50's, from the suggestion of acting teacher-- to be better go learn all the Fine Arts. He likes especially huge oils, some done by lately deceased and former graffiti taggers like Keith Hering and Frank Gehry. His pieces includes stuff by Julia Schnable, David Salle and Ed Rosche. One work of Jean-Michel Besqint bought for seventeen thousand dollars was desired by one who made an offer of a million dollars. "Either I get it or I don't." He is a photographer, been in galleries and has published a book of his work, Out of the Sixties. He has early pictures of an old late acquaintance, Andy Warhol.

He died May 29, 2010.  (Rebel without a curse)


1955 - Rebel Without a Cause
1955 - I Died a Thousand Times
1956 - Giant
1957 - Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
1957 - The James Dean Story
1958 - From Hell to Texas
1959 - The Young Land
1960 - Key Witness
1961 - Night Tide
1964 - Tarzan and Jane Regained...Sort of
1965 - The Sons of Katie Elder
1966 - Planet of Blood/Queen of Blood
1967 - The Trip (2nd Unit Dir.)
1967 - Cool Hand Luke
1967 - Panic in the City
1967 - Hang 'Em High
1967 - The Glory Stompers
1968 - Head
1969 - True Grit
1969 - Easy Rider (Writer, Dir.)
1969 - Backtrack! (producer)
1970 - The Festival Game
1971 - The Last Movie (Dir. Ed. Writer)
1971 - The American Dreamer (Writer)
1972 - The other Side of the Wind
1973 - Kid Blue
1975 - James Dean, the First American Teenager
1976 - Mad Dog Morgan
1977 - The American Friend
1977 - The Sorcerer's Apprentice
1978 - Concorde Affair
1979 - Apocalypse Now
1979 - The Sky is Falling
1979 - Bloodbath
1979 - Couleur Chair
1980 - Wild Times (TV)
1980 - Out of the Blue
1981 - King of the Mountain
1981 - Renacer/Reborn
1982 - Human Highway
1983 - The Osterman Weekend
1983 - Rumble Fish
1984 - The Inside Man
1985 - Let It Rock
1985 - My Science Project
1985 - Stark (TV)
1985 - O.C. and Stiggs
1986 - Stark II (TV)
1986 - Texas Chainsaw Massacre Pt. 2
1986 - The River's Edge
1986 - Blue Velvet
1986 - Hoosiers
1986 - Riders of the Storm
1987 - Black Widow
1987 - The Pick-up Artist
1987 - Straight to Hell
1987 - Rolling Stone: The First Twenty Years (Dir.)
1987 - Apocalypse Pooh
1988 - Colors (Director) 1988 - Forever James Dean
1988 - Blood Red
1988 - Art, Acting, and the Suicide Chair: Dennis Hopper
1989 - Chattahoochee
1989 - Catchfire
1990 - Flashback
1990 - Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol]
1990 - Motion and Emotion
1990 - The Hot Spot (Dir.)
1990 - Jonathon Ross Presents For One Night Only: David Lynch (TV)
1990 - Tribal Document
1991 - Paris Trout
1991 - Doublecrossed
1991 - The Indian Runner
1991 - The Eye of the Storm
1991 - Sunset Heat
1991 - Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
1991 - Fishing With John (Series, TV)
1992 - Nails (TV)
1992 - Red Rock West
1992 - The Heart of Justice (TV)
1993 - Boiling Point
1993 - Super Mario Brothers
1994 - Speed
1994 - Chasers (Dir.)
1994 - Witch Hunt (TV)
1995 - Search and Destroy
1995 - Waterworld
1995 - Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller
1996 - Carried Away
1996 - Marlon Brando: The Wild One
1996 - Samson and Delilah
1996 - Who Is Henry Jaglom?
1996 - James Dean: A Portrait
1996 - Cannes Man
1997 - Space Truckers
1997 - The Last Days of Frankie the Fly
1997 - The Blackout
1997 - Road Ends
1997 - Top of the World
1997 - Happy Birthday Elizabeth: A Celebration of Life (TV)
1998 - Meet the Deedles
1998 - Geld Trennt (TV)
1998 - Welcome to Hollywood (TV)
1998 - Michael Angel
1998 - Black Dahlia
1999 - The Source
1999 - Ed TV
1999 - Straight Shooter
1999 - Jesus' Son
1999 - The Venice Project
1999 - Bad City Blues
1999 - The Prophet's Game
1999 - Lured Innocence
2000 - Luck of the Draw
2000 - Jason and the Argonauts (TV)
2000 - Tycus (TV)
2000 - Held for Ransom
2000 - The Spreading Ground
2000 - A Hard Look
2000 - Choke
2000 - Ticker
2001 - All Star Tribute to Brian Wilson (TV)
2001 - Jazz Seen: The Life and Times of William Clayton
2001 - Knockaround Guys
2001 - Unspeakable
2001 - My Little Hollywood
2001 - LAPD: To Protect and to Serve (TV)
2001 - I Don't Know Jack
2002 - Firestarter: Rekindled
2002 - The Piano Player
2002 - Flatland
2002 - Firecracker
2003 - Leopold Bloom

note: sighmoan says Also, Hopper starred as a neo-Nazi in the Twilight Zone episode that Stephen King ripped-off for Apt Pupil. And then there's maybe a whole 'nother node's-worth about Hopper's hobby as a photographer -- been exhibited in a gallery, even, I believe.

Also, big thanks to GangstaFeelsGood whose quest concerning improving this bio, I tried to answer, and whose persistent, consistent, patient help made this node very much better.
Celebrity Wonder
Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide; 1995
egg, "Collectors"; PBS, Jan, 2003

Update Note:

koreykruse relates-- re Dennis Hopper: The movie "Firecracker" is not going to be coming out this year. It is tentatively scheduled for 2003 release assuming of course that it is filmed at all. We are currently waiting to see if Deborah Harry will be ready to start filming at the end of her current US Tour with Blondie . In any case the name should be changed to Firecracker (2003)

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