Dennis Hopper Biography

Television Actor, Director, Actor, Film Actor (1936–2010)
Actor/director Dennis Hopper came to fame with 1969's Easy Rider. Later films like Blue Velvet and River's Edge cemented his legend.


Dennis Hopper was born on May 17, 1936, and began his career with small roles in movies like Rebel Without a Cause. His career soared when he starred in 1969's Easy Rider, which he also directed and co-wrote. Hopper re-appeared in the 1980s with quirky roles in Hoosiers (1986) and Blue Velvet (1986). In addition to his talent with film and video, Hopper was a respected photographer, having photos that appeared in various museums and galleries. After battling cancer, he died in Venice, California, on May 29, 2010.


Early Career

Actor, director, photographer and art collector Dennis Hopper was born on May 17, 1936, in Dodge City, Kansas. Often taking on darker roles and suspect characters, Dennis Hopper began his film career in the mid-1950s. He started acting as a teenager, eventually signing a contract with Warner Brothers in the early 1950s.

While filming a small role in Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Hopper befriended fellow actor James Dean. The two appeared together again in Dean's last film, Giant (1956), which was made before Dean's fatal car crash. But it wouldn't be until 1969 that Hopper would score his greatest success on screen with Easy Rider. The film follows a road trip made by two counterculture hippies on motorcycles played Hopper and Peter Fonda, capturing a moment in American history.

In addition to his starring role, Hopper directed and co-wrote the film with Fonda and Terry Southern. The film received two Academy Award nominations—one for a then-unknown Jack Nicholson for Best Supporting Actor and one for Hopper, Fonda and Southern for Best Original Screenplay.

Drug Abuse and Subsequent Comeback

Unfortunately, Hopper's next directing project, The Last Movie (1971), was a commercial and critical failure. This sent him into a tailspin, and he sank into a period of intense alcohol and drug abuse. In the 1980s, Hopper went through a personal and professional revival, getting sober and landing more substantial parts. He turned in a memorably disturbing performance in David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) as the sinister Frank Booth who was involved in a strange relationship with Dorothy Vallens played by Isabella Rossellini.

Showing great versatility, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of an alcoholic father to tries to get sober and help coach his son's basketball team in Hoosiers (1986). That same year, Hopper had another memorable supporting role opposite Keanu Reeves in the cult favorite The River's Edge (1986). In that film, he portrayed the paranoid loner Feck, who keeps an inflatable sex doll as his only companion.

Later Roles

Hopper returned to directing with 1988's police versus street gangs drama Colors, starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. Since then he has directed a few more films, including The Hot Spot (1990) and Chasers (1994). In the 1990s, however, he was better known for his acting, especially playing the bad guy in such films as Speed (1994).

In the 2000s, Hopper acted in films and on television. Films include The Keeper (2004) and 10th & Wolf (2006). On television he did a series of guest spots on the hit drama 24 in 2002 and appeared a series regular in the short-lived 2005 military series set at the Pentagon, E-Ring, with Benjamin Bratt. In 2008 he began work on the TV drama, Crash.

In addition to his film and television work, Hopper is an accomplished photographer. His work has been shown at museums and galleries and several books of his photographs have been published. Hopper is also known for amassing a large modern art collection.

Battle with Cancer

In October 2009, Hopper shocked fans with the announcement that he was battling prostate cancer. He began taking various treatments and postponed his acting schedule, appearing in public only to accept a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 18, 2010.

On May 29, 2010, Hopper died from prostate cancer complications at the age of 74. He was surrounded by family and friends at the time of his death.

Married five times, Hopper was in the process of divorcing his last wife, Victoria Duffy, at the time of his death. The couple has one daughter together. Hopper also has three other children. His oldest daughter Marin is from his first marriage to writer and actress Brooke Hayward. He also has a daughter, Ruthana, with third wife Daria Halprin, and a son, Henry Lee, with fourth wife Katherine LaNasa.

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