Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper has died at the age of 74 following a battle with prostate cancer.
Known for such cult classics as Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet, Hopper embodied the image of the Hollywood icon.
Hopper died on Saturday morning surrounded by friends and family at his home in Venice, California.
He was last seen in public in March when he was honoured with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
“Dennis Hopper died this morning at 8:15 am from complications of metastasised prostate cancer. He died at home in Venice surrounded by family and friends,” manager Sam Maydew said in a statement.
Hopper’s career was one of the most long-lived in an industry which is notorious for chewing up its stars. It began in the era of the 1950s with a role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, flowered in art films of the 1960s and 1970s, and then transitioned into the modern era of the blockbuster, as he specialised in psychotic villains. “Great actor. Great director. Great American. Terrible loss. God bless the wild man with the gentle soul. May he rest in peace,” wrote John Nolte, editor-in-chief of the Big Hollywood blog. “We all knew this was coming, but that does not lessen the blow.”
Certainly not every role Hopper took was a great one. Especially towards the end of his career, he appeared in many movies that did little to impress critics or audiences. In his filmography cinematic duds such as Hell Ride and The Crow: Wicked Prayer sit alongside true classics including Blue Velvet, Giant, and Cool Hand Luke and Speed. But Hopper’s wild-eyed, scenery-chewing performances often lifted the quality of any B-movie, reminding viewers that he was one of the most watchable of Hollywood stars. “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.”
With a reputation as a difficult actor to work with, Hopper had also begun working as a photographer in the 1960s. That flowered into an alternative career that included painting and poetry. Earlier this year he was on the shortlist for a show at the LA Museum of Contemporary Art .
His private life was as variable as his professional one. He married five times and fathered four children. One of his marriages, to his second wife, Michelle Phillips, a singer in the group The Mamas and the Papas, lasted just eight days in 1970. Of the experience Hopper famously quipped: “Seven of those days were pretty good. The eighth day was the bad one.” His final marriage, to actress Victoria Duffy took place in 1996. The pair were undergoing a bitter divorce when he died. So bitter, in fact, that a dreadfully ill Hopper sought a restraining order against his spouse even though he was dying and virtually bedridden.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Hopper appeared alongside his mentor James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.
He was best known for starring in the 1969 cult classic Easy Rider, for which he received an Oscar for the movie’s original screenplay.
The film is regarded as one of the greatest films of American cinema.
The low-budget blockbuster, orginally conceived by Peter Fonda, introduced mainstream moviegoers to pot smoking, cocaine dealing and 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 said 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.
Other cult classics included Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet.
Hopper fell ill last September but continued working for months on his TV series Crash and on a book showcasing his photography.
In late March, he did attend the ceremony unveiling his own star on the Hollywood Boulevard, flanked by some of the many screen legends he worked with over a career spanning nearly half a century.
“Everyone here today that I’ve invited and obviously some that I haven’t invited have enriched my life tremendously,” Hopper said.
“They’ve shown me a world that I would never have seen being a farm boy from Dodge City, Kansas, and learning things I would never have learned,” he added.
Hopper married five times but his final months had been consumed by a bitter divorce battle with his fifth wife Victoria Duffy. He is survived by four children.