Saturday, May 29, 2010
Matt Sayles / AP file
Dennis Hopper is seen in 2008, before he was diagnosed with cancer.
TODAY news services
updated 5/29/2010 10:22:00 AM
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper, best known for directing and starring in the 1969 cult classic "Easy Rider," died on Saturday at his home in Venice, California, from complications of prostate cancer, a friend told Reuters. Hopper was 74.
The hard-living screen icon died at 8:15 a.m. PT, surrounded by family and friends, said the friend, Alex Hitz. The two-time Oscar nominee, who appeared in more than 100 films, last March got a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, saying he came to Hollywood from his native Kansas at 18, "so that was my college." "Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from Hollywood," he said. "This has been my home and my schooling."
"Easy Rider," regarded is one of the greatest films of American cinema, helped usher in a new era in which the old Hollywood guard was forced to cede power to young filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.
The low-budget blockbuster, originally conceived by Fonda, introduced mainstream moviegoers to pot-smoking, cocaine-dealing, long-haired bikers.
"We'd gone through the whole '60s and nobody had made a film about anybody smoking grass without going out and killing a bunch of nurses," Hopper told Entertainment Weekly in 2005. "I wanted 'Easy Rider' to be a time capsule for people about that period."
Hopper and Fonda were joined on screen by a then-unknown Jack Nicholson as an alcoholic lawyer, but it was not a harmonious set. Hopper clashed violently with everyone and Fonda later described him as a "little fascist freak." Their friendship was destroyed.
Hopper fell ill last September. He continued working almost to the very end, both on his cable TV series "Crash" and on a book showcasing his photography. But his final months were also consumed by a bitter divorce battle with his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy.
Indeed, his private life was never dull. His marriages included an eight-day union in 1970 with Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas, who later told Vanity Fair that she was subjected to "excruciating" treatment.
Hopper is survived by four children.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Posted by Nick Nicholson at 1:51 PM
During the filming of “Apocalypse Now” by July, 1976, I had been helping to train the Ifugao tribesmen from the Mountain Province up in northern Luzon, the main big island of the Philippines. Director Francis Coppola wanted them to look like they had been trained into a Striker Force, one of the Special Forces led mercenary units that responded to “Over the Fence” ops under the MACV-SOG.
During the time after the Typhoon (Didang) the movie sets had to be repaired from extensive damage. Pagsanjan Falls, Laguna Province, southeast of Manila, was to become a major location for the film crew, actors, production crew. We took over the town but Nick Nicholson has a much better memory and has posted on these details. But I digress.
The Main Striker Company, was dressed in various uniforms of Tiger Stripe Camo, Marine Camo, Korean, Vietnamese Par as, even Black Pajamas of the Viet Cong.
Dennis was given a chance by Francis Coppola, after enduring a period of being ‘blacklisted’. Being a ‘method actor’ for several weeks Dennis DID NOT Shower or have his costume cleaned and he was RIPE. One day several of us, led by 2nd A.D. Larry Franco, grabbed him and threw him into the swimming pool at the Pagsanjan Rapids Hotel
We would land on the smaller river which led to the Do Long Bridge set, several hundred meters down river and move through Coconut fields until we reached the north perimeter. The boatmen brought us to a place we had scouted several days before. We would penetrate the outer wire (we took big wire cutters) then throwing colored smoke grenades, launch our attack and “capture the flag” at the Command Post. Everything depended on our moving undetected and not getting, well, lost in the coconut field.
CONTACT!! The south perimeter began slowly with a few ‘shots’ then built into a crescendo of bursts of AK-47 and M-16 fire with one M-60 blasting through without let up. I urged the men forward and we cut the wire and pour inside with several ladders to throw on top of the next line of wire.
Moses fired his AK-47, also set for Automatic, firing the entire magazine of 28 blank rounds. Everyone around me began to fire their weapons and advance.
Dennis Hopper was with the actors and staff who were observing. He came up to us. Dennis, “Are you in charge? Yeah? Who was going, CLICK-CLICK? Was that you?"
I had to sheepishly admit to him, “Uh…Yes, that was me. I had two DUDS.” Dennis interrupted me, “I am gonna call you Click-Click from now on.” Oh, wonderful I thought.
That was my introduction to Dennis Hopper, who called me Click-Click for the longest damn time. We smoked a few ‘herbs’ a few times on the set, and I showed him how we used a “Blooper”, opened up, a cooling tube for the ‘shotgun method’ of inhaling ‘Thai Sticks’. One day Dennis did not know that the schedule had changed and he was totally trashed on some hard stuff. I think we did over 70 takes that day, Francis and Dennis were discussing with ‘some animation’ by the 45th take. It was the longest day other than the infamous USO Show with the Playmates. That is for another day…