Actor Dennis Hopper has passed away at the age of 74 after a long fight with prostate cancer. The star had been bravely battling the ferocious disease for many years now, and though the news seemed imminent, it is no less tragic.
With appearances on the Starz series Crash and roles in the movies Hell Ride, Elegy, and Swing Vote, the actor kept right on working until the end of his life. Hopper even has two more films on the one — one called The Last Film Festival that’s finished, and another in post-production called Alpha and Omega which he did the voice of Tony.
But it was a nasty and seemingly out-of-nowhere divorce from his wife of 14-years that had him in the headlines lately, and it was devastating to him both financially and physically. Before his passing, multiple reports indicated that his illness was advanced and that he weighed little more than 100 lbs, and that he was almost completely broke from the divorce.
Thankfully, despite being so sick, Hopper fought tooth and nail against his disease, which allowed him to be there when he was awarded his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in late March, and to see his 74th birthday recently.
Hopper has been around for decades and has almost 200 titles to his credit, making it almost impossible to faithfully summarize his brilliant body of work, and making him easily recognized by many movie fans of all ages. Instead of being picky, let’s just look at his career one decade at a time.
One of his first roles ever was as a Goon in the 1955 James Dean classic, Rebel Without A Cause, and he had roles in many Western movies and TV shows (perfect, considering his being from Dodge City, Kansas) like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, From Hell to Texas, The Young Land, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and of course, True Grit in 1969. Also in ’69, Hopper starred in a little movie called Easy Rider, which is still to this day considered one of the best road movies of all time and gave him his first Oscar nomination (as a writer).
The actor did plenty in the ’70s, but only one stands out above the rest: Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola’s classic study of not only the physical trials of war, but the crushing mental damage that can become of soldiers is one of the great war films ever seen and Hopper’s brief-but-memorable turn as a twitchy and trippy photojournalist was easily one of the highlights.
It was the ’80s, however, where most of us really began getting acquainted with Hopper. Rumble Fish, My Science Project, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The River’s Edge, Blue Velvet, and Hoosiers, which gave him his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This decade of work alone would be an impressive career for any one actor, but Hopper was just getting warmed up at this point.
Though he had already done so much, it was the ’90s where I personally first saw Hopper. Two movies, to be specific, first made the man known to my young brain, and those of course are Super Mario Bros. and Speed. Many think Mario is a terrible movie, and even I knew it didn’t have much to do with the game, but to me it will always be a weird and wacky childhood favorite. Speed, on the other hand, is a different story. Still just as fun now as it was sixteen years ago, I was a new teenager and it was the greatest movie ever made, which by association made Hopper the greatest (and meanest) villain ever.
Speed alone is enough to make me sad about this latest Hollywood death, but it’s only one of the many mentioned and the many still to come that Hopper was a part of. Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance is another beloved favorite of many movie fans that came from the ’90s, and that was followed by performances in Waterworld and EdTV.
The latest decade to pass saw Hopper doing quite a bit more smaller, independent films and some big TV parts. Along with the titles mentioned at the top of this post, he was in movies like Knockaround Guys and Land of the Dead, but it was more his work on shows E-Ring, 24, and Crash that shined a light on his double-aught work. He even lent his voice to one of the many characters of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
It’s because of this truly awe-inspiring amount of cherished films that Hopper has appeared in that make his last days so tragic. For a man of such talents and respect to to be in the midst of a divorce and without any money left as he battled this vicious cancer is heartbreaking to even think about.
Looking back on it all now, Dennis Hopper was truly one of the great actors and entertainers of our time. His many works and characters, classics of Hollywood and cult status, will live on forever, and we will surely never forget and always appreciate the joy that he has brought to us all.
It is truly a day to mourn — one of the few real American cowboys has fallen.
1936 — 2010
[Source: ABC News]