Childhood & Early Life
Dennis Hopper was born on 17 May 1936 in Dodge City, Kansas, to James Milliard Hopper and Majorjie Mae. He had two brothers, Marvin and David.
Post World War II, he shifted to Kansas City along with his family. While here, he attended Saturday art classes at the Nelson Art Gallery. At the gallery, he was also exposed to drama classes. At the age of 13, Hooper and his family shifted to San Diego where his mother took up work as a lifeguard instructor.
He went on to study acting at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and at the Actors Studio, New York. During this time he made friends with actor Vincent Prince. He was supposedly fond of William Shakespeare’s plays.
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Dennis Hopper began his career in acting during the early 1950s. His first role is said to be an unaccredited role in the feature film ‘Johnny Guitar’ (1954). He made his debut in Hollywood with minor roles like ‘Rebel without a Cause’ (1955) and ‘Giant’ (1956).
In 1959, he moved to New York to study Method acting under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Two years later, in 1961, he played the lead role in the supernatural thriller ‘Night tide’.
Due to his rude and arrogant behavior, he could not find work in Hollywood for seven years. It was then that he turned to his passion, photography. He was known for his portraits and in the 1960s he worked for Vogue and other magazines. He also began work as a poet and painter.
In 1965, he restarted his career with a role in John Wayne’s ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’. In 1967, he appeared in a supporting role in the film’ Cool Hand Luke’.
His greatest success on screen was the release of the road movie ‘Easy Rider’ (1969). Dennis Hopper was as co-writer, actor, director and editor of the film. The same year he was also part of the feature film ‘True Grit’.
In 1971, he was part of the drama film ‘The Last Movie’. Throughout the 1970s, he was part of numerous low budget and European movies like ‘Mad Dog Morgan’ (1976), ‘Tracks’ (1976), and ‘The American Friend’ (1977).
He earned much appreciation for his direction and acting skills in the film ‘Out of the Blue’ (1980). During the time, he appeared in films like ‘Rumble Fish’ (1983) and ‘The Osterman Weekend’ (1983).
In 1986, his role as villain in ‘Blue Velvet’ earned much critical acclaim. The same year, he was part of the sports film ‘Hoosiers’, a performance for which he earned an Academy Award nomination.
In 1988, he directed crime film ‘Colors’, depicting gang life and gang violence.
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A few years later, he appeared in award winning HBO films ‘Paris Trout’ and ‘Doublecrossed’. Other directorial ventures include ‘The Hot Spot’ (1990) and ‘Chasers’ (1994). He played the villain role in ‘Speed’ (1994) against Keanu Reeves.
In the early 1990s, he in association with sports brand Nike appeared in a series of television commercials.
In the 2000s, he began taking up acting roles in television and feature films. He made several cameos as in ‘24’ (2002) as well as regular appearances as in ‘E-Ring’ (2005). Television shows that he has made appearances include: ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Bonanza’, ‘Petticoat Junction’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Defenders’, ‘The Investigators’, ‘The Legend of Jesse James’, ‘Entourage’, ‘The Big Valley’, ‘The Time Tunnel’ and ‘The Rifleman’.
In 2008, he was part of the drama series ‘Crash’. Movies that he was a part include: ‘The Keeper’ (2004) and ‘10th& Wolf’ (2006).
In 2011, art book publisher Taschen published his photography works by the title ‘Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961–1967’. In 2013, publisher HarperCollins released a biography on him by writer Tom Folsom titled ‘Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream’.
While he was alive, his photography and art works were displayed in exhibitions all over the globe at prestigious galleries as the MAK Vienna ,Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, Vienna, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne.
Awards & Achievements
In 1969, Dennis Hopper won the award for ‘Best First Work’ at the Cannes Film Festival for ‘Easy Rider’. The same year he won the special award at the ‘National Society of Film Critics Awards’ for ‘Easy Rider’.
In 1971, he won the CIDALC Award at the Venice Film Festival for ‘The Last Movie’.
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In 1986, his performance in the feature film ‘Blue Velvet’ earned him Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor, Independent Spirit Awards for Best Male Lead, Montreal World Film Festival Award for Best Actor and National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1994, he won the MTV Movie Awards for Best Villain for his role in ‘Speed’.
In 1995, he was the recipient of the Razzie Award for ‘Worst Supporting Actor’ for the film ‘Waterworld’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Dennis Hopper was known to have troubled relationships with women. In 1961, he married actress Brooke Hayward. The couple had a daughter Marin Hopper (born in 1962). However, they separated in 1969.
In October 1970, he married singer and songwriter, Michelle Phillips. The marriage lasted for a mere eight days and the couple split in November 1970.
He married psychologist and actress, Daria Halprin, in 1972. They had a daughter named Ruthanna Hopper, born in 1974. The couple divorced in 1976.
In 1989, he married actress and ballet dancer, Katherine LaNasa, and they had a son named Henry Lee Hopper, born in 1990. The couple divorced in 1992.
In 1996, he married Victoria Duff and had a daughter named Galen Grier Hopper (born in 2003). They parted ways in 2010.
In September 2009, he was admitted at a Manhattan hospital and reportedly treated for dehydration. The following month his manager announced that Dennis Hopper had been diagnosed with advanced stage of prostate cancer and in January the report stated that the cancer had metasized to the bones.
He was terminally ill during his last months and it was during the time that he was fighting the divorce case against his fifth wife Victoria Duff. His ill health did not allow him to undergo chemotherapy.
He died at his home in Los Angeleson 29 May 2010, at the age of 74. He was laid to rest at the Jesus Nazareno Cemetery, Ranchos de Taos.