Sunday, May 30, 2010
"There are moments that I've had some real brilliance, you know. But I think they are moments. And sometimes - in a career - moments are enough. I never felt I played the great part. I never felt that I directed the great movie...
I can't say that it's anybody's fault but my own."
I was sprawled out on the sofa when I caught the tail end of the bulletin. Dennis Hopper finally lost out to the prostate cancer which had been eating away at him for the better part of a decade.
It saddened me a little.
Hopper achieved iconic status in his own right even before I watched him in "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant". A boy clearly in awe of Jimmy Dean. His fallow years reminded me of what a fine picture "The Last Movie" was. It might have very nearly destroyed his reputation in Hollywood, it might have financially crippled him, but that one unravelling length of celluloid is pretty much how I will chose to remember him. Permanently distracted and keen to pry loose the skin on things.
Dennis Hopper wore the face of a man awaking from electro convulsive therapy. An epiliptic seizure.
The thousand yard stare of a suburban head who might have just breakfasted on mescaline and tequila before venturing out to collect the mail or mow the lawn.
His sabbatical in Peru was certainly outwardly prompted by his contractual obligation to Universal Pictures, but it reeked of an obsessive impulse to harness the hallucinogenic properties of the ayahuasca vine. Well. The path to enlightenment is twisting and fraught with peril. There is no defining eureka moment or pot of gold to recover where previous expeditions have floundered. Just diminishing perspective and the ritual cycle of birth and decay.
If Dennis Hopper found out otherwise he kept his own counsel.
His role in Francis Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" rehabilitated him commercially.
His role in Coppola's adaptation of S.E. Hinton's "Rumblefish" told of more prosaic truths. I will not dwell on the ensuing drug rehab program or later successes, of which there were many.
Dennis Hopper was an accomplished photographer, painter and sculptor. In many ways he was a child who refused to be cowed by social constraint. He did what he did and lasted longer than most.