Dennis Hopper R.I.P

We pay tribute to the legendary screen icon who brought us some of the most memorable anti-heroes in the history of cinema

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The born-to-be-wild maverick Dennis Hopper passed away this weekend at the age of 73, leaving the world to mourn the loss of an incandescent actor, photographer and filmmaker who pushed the limits of every medium he worked in way over the edge, and then pushed them some more. Here at Dazed, we are keeping our fingers crossed that St Peter is ready for his Harley to roll up to the gates, because he might just raise a storm in heaven. After all, Hopper was once described by Rolling Stone as “one of Hollywood’s most notorious drug addicts”, and not without good reason: he famously locked himself in a Mexican shack for months and went on a bender that was too much for even Hunter S Thompson to stomach. If that isn't enough to convince you of his audaciously volatile nature, let's not forget that this is a man who staged his own suicide at an art event (with the help of a coffin and a few sticks of dynamite), and called up David Lynch to tell him that he had to be the one to play the psychotic sex offender Frank in Blue Velvet because he ‘was’ Frank.

Hopper was born in Dodge City, Kansas in 1939 to modest working-class parentage. After becoming interested in acting as a young man, he moved to New York and honed his craft under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. His first major screen roles were opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Giant (1956). Over the next few years, he garnered small roles playing in films featuring many great actors but it wasn’t really until he took the directorial helm on Easy Rider (1969) and rode the dark side of the American Dream with Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda that his star ascended. To say that his career after Easy Rider took many dips and turns would be a profound understatement, some people have 'lost weekends' but Hopper lost whole years. However, when he was onscreen or behind the camera he displayed nothing less than a profoundly unique creative mind – whether he was torturing Isabella Rossellini as the aforementioned villain in Blue Velvet (1986), wigging out on acid (for real) on the set of Apocalypse Now (1979), capturing alcoholism with startling acuity in Rumble Fish (1983), directing a profoundly emotional film about LA gang violence (Colors), or even buccaneering as a pirate villain in mega-budget flop Waterworld (1995), he always lit up the screen with iridescent manic energy.

Sure, there is a hell of a lot more we could say about Hopper – about his love of photography (he carried a camera obsessively, and captured images of everybody from Tina Turner to Martin Luther King, see Jessica Hundley's feature in issue 166), his prolific output as a painter, his almost heroic enthusiasm for the devil’s dandruff, and his unflinching commitment to creating challenging art – but there will be ample time for that in the coming weeks and months. For now, we simply pay tribute to one of the finest actors and most belligerently individual creatives to ever have graced Hollywood. As he revs his motorcyle engine in the lands of the dead, we leave you with some words from the man himself:

“You want to hear about insanity? I was found running naked through the jungles in Mexico. At the Mexico City airport, I decided I was in the middle of a movie and walked out on the wing on takeoff. My body... my liver... okay, my brain... went.”

Dennis Hopper, We Love You.
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