Easy Rider Director/Actor Dennis Hopper Dies

June 1st, 2010 by admin

Billy is dead. The charismatic writer/director/star of the counterculture hit Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper, died Saturday after losing his battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.

Who would have known back in 1969 that a low-budget movie about two bikers road-tripping across the South in the tempestuous period of American history known as the ‘60s would become one of AFI’s top 100. It was real, it dealt with issues like the perception of bikers and hippies, drug use and sex, it delighted and appalled at the same time, depending on what side of the tracks you were from, and eventually helped spark the New Hollywood phase of film making in the late ‘60s which tried to duplicate the feat that Hopper, Peter Fonda and Terry Southern had achieved.

Hopper pissed a lot of people off in the movie industry with his quirky, creative, unpredictable behavior. He was always good for a sound byte and never shied away from addressing important societal issues head-on. Sure, his enigmatic personality was fueled in part by booze and drugs. Regardless, his persona is someone many bikers can relate to.

Though I never met the man in person, he’s the type of guy I would have loved to have shared a few drinks with in a dark-lit smoky bar. I believe the intensity and zaniness he brought to the characters he portrayed was only possible because of the person he was in real life. Look at the diversity of his roles, from his early start in the industry starring with a young James Dean as Goon in Rebel Without a Cause to the charismatic Billy in Easy Rider; from a drug-addled photojournalist in Apocalypse Now to the demented Frank Booth in David Lynch’s masterpiece Blue Velvet.

We lost a good one in Hopper. Think I’ll take a ride to the local video store and pick up a copy of Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet and Easy Rider and have me a Hopper marathon this Memorial Day. RIP Dennis (1936 -2010).

“What the hell is wrong with freedom? That’s what it’s all about.” Billy in Easy Rider

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