Dead, Dennis Lee Hopper on May 29, 2010 at the age of 74 of prostate cancer, he was an American actor, filmmaker, photographer, and artist.
He attended the Actors Studio, making his first television appearance in 1954, and soon after appeared in two films with James Dean.
In the next ten years he made a name in television, and by the end of the 1960s had appeared in several films.
Born Dennis Lee Hopper on May 17, 1936, in Dodge City, Kansas, the son of Marjorie Mae (née Davis, July 12, 1917 – January 12, 2007) and James Millard Hopper (June 23, 1916 – August 7, 1982).
He had Scottish ancestors.
Hopper had two brothers, Marvin and David. H
opper was unable to build on his success for several years, until the fame brought by his role as the American Photojournalist in Apocalypse Now (1979).
He then appeared in Rumble Fish (1983) and The Osterman Weekend (1983), and received critical recognition for his acting in Blue Velvet and Hoosiers, with the latter film garnering him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1988 he directed Colors, and in the following years played the eponymous lead character in Paris Trout.
He played numerous villains including: Speed (1994), King Koopa in Super Mario Bros. (1993) and in Waterworld (1995). Hopper also played heroes, such as John Canyon in Space Truckers.
In his book Last Train to Memphis, American popular music historian Peter Guralnick says that in 1956, when Elvis Presley was making his first film in Hollywood, Hopper was roommates with fellow actor Nick Adams and the three became friends and socialized together.
In 1959 Hopper moved to New York to study Method acting under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.
In 1961, Hopper played his first lead role in Night Tide, an atmospheric supernatural thriller involving a mermaid in an amusement park.
Hopper was able to sustain his lifestyle and a measure of celebrity by acting in numerous low budget and European films throughout the 1970s as the archetypical “tormented maniac”, including Mad Dog Morgan (1976), Tracks (1976), and The American Friend (1977). With Francis Ford Coppola’s blockbuster Apocalypse Now (1979), Hopper returned to prominence as a hyper-manic Vietnam-era photojournalist.
Stepping in for an overwhelmed director, Hopper won praise in 1980 for his directing and acting in Out of the Blue.
Immediately thereafter, Hopper starred as an addled short-order cook “Cracker” in the Neil Young/Dean Stockwell low-budget collaboration Human Highway.
Production was reportedly often delayed by his unreliable behavior.
Peter Biskind states in the New Hollywood history Easy Riders, Raging Bulls that Hopper’s cocaine intake had reached three grams a day by this time, complemented by 30 beers, and some marijuana and Cuba libres.
Hopper returned to film direction in the late 1980s and was at the helm of the controversial gang film Colors (1988), which was well received by both critics and audiences.
He was back in front of the cameras for roles in Super Mario Bros. (1993), got on the wrong side of gangster Christopher Walken in True Romance (1993), led police officer Keanu Reeves and bus passenger Sandra Bullock on a deadly ride in Speed (1994) and challenged gill-man Kevin Costner for world supremacy in Waterworld (1995).
The enigmatic Hopper has continued to remain busy through the 1990s and into the new century with performances in The Night We Called It a Day (2003), The Keeper (2004) and Land of the Dead (2005).