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Dennis Hopper, American film actor and icon, dies at 74

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The Hollywood star, best known for his roles in Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet, has died from cancer

[smaller]Xan Brooks | guardian.co.uk | Saturday 29 May 2010 | Link[/smaller]

Dennis Hopper, the rogue talent who sparked a renaissance in American cinema, has died at the age of 74. The hard-living screen star died at his home in the coastal Los Angeles suburb of Venice at around 8am local time, surrounded by family and friends, Alex Hitz, a close friend, told Reuters.

The actor and film-maker was believed to have been suffering from terminal cancer and was admitted to the Cedars Sinai Medical Centre shortly before Christmas. His recent months were mired by a messy and public divorce case with his fifth wife. In March, he appeared on Hollywood Boulevard when he was honoured with a star on the Walk of Fame.

Hopper will perhaps be best remembered for his landmark 1969 movie Easy Rider, the film that introduced mainstream Hollywood to the counter-culture. His freewheeling tale of two bikers on an odyssey through America became one of the most successful independent pictures ever made, galvanising the industry and opening the doors for a new generation of film-makers that included Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola.

But Hopper was to prove too turbulent a personality to ever be regarded as a safe bet by the industry. His 1971 epic The Last Movie proved a critical and commercial disaster and his middle years were blighted by drug and alcohol abuse. He would later confess that he used cocaine in order to sober himself up for further drinking bouts.

In front of the camera, he became known for compelling, wild-eyed performances in films such as Tracks, River's Edge and Apocalypse Now. Arguably his most memorable turn came as the psychotic, helium-snorting Frank Booth in Dennis Lynch's 1986 classic Blue Velvet. "You have to let me play Frank Booth," Hopper reportedly told Lynch at the time. "Because I am Frank Booth."

After cutting his teeth at the fabled Actor's Studio in New York, he made his film debut alongside his friend James Dean in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. He went on to work with Dean again on Giant and had a supporting role in the 1957 western Gunfight at the OK Corral. Other notable roles include The American Friend, Speed and True Romance.

The failure of The Last Movie did not quite kill off Hopper's career as a film-maker. His directing credits include the acclaimed Out of the Blue and Colors, a Los Angeles gang saga that starred Sean Penn. In later years he found a fresh lease of life as a painter, photographer and collector of modern art. He married five times and is survived by his four children.

"There are moments that I've had some real brilliance, you know," he reflected recently. "But I think they are moments. And sometimes, in a career, moments are enough."

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Oh, man... NO WAY! I feel genuinely sad to read these news. There was something about his various on-screen personas and a few of his real-life characteristics that I felt he channeled to me. The world has lost an irreplaceable pop icon(oclast). R.I.P., Mr. Hopper.

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This is sad news, he was so iconic and had a long lasting career that never got stale, he continued to put out terrific performances even until recently. R.I.P. Dennis

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Arguably his most memorable turn came as the psychotic, helium-snorting Frank Booth in Dennis Lynch's 1986 classic Blue Velvet. "You have to let me play Frank Booth," Hopper reportedly told Lynch at the time. "Because I am Frank Booth."

His was nearly a self-portrayal in "Hoosiers" as well.

So, I guess he was around 40 years-old when he played the hippie freak in Easy Rider. I always thought he was younger, for some reason.

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So, I guess he was around 40 years-old when he played the hippie freak in Easy Rider. I always thought he was younger, for some reason.

He was born in 1936, making him 32 in 1968-69 when Easy Rider was being filmed.

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