Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dennis Hopper: Still The World's Most Entertaining Asshole

While many kind and selfless artists have died prematurely and left us much too soon, Dennis Hopper, one of the most reckless, abusive, and obnoxious talents in the film industry, has somehow managed to live to the ripe old age of 72. Perhaps there really is no justice in the world. Or perhaps God simply likes the entertainment. I know I do. Here, then, in his fully self-conscious glory, is Dennis Hopper, from an interview with The Hollywood Interview, a fellow blog on Blogspot (note: why can't we land these kinds of interviews on our blog?). The casual observer might only think of Hopper as that guy from Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, and...Waterworld, but in truth, he's made films with everyone from James Dean to John Wayne to Andy Warhol. While growing up in Kansas during the Dustbowl, he actually bought a dog from the Clutter family of In Cold Blood fame. He apparently produced an album for Miles Davis. The man has seen and done it all, and what's really impressive is that he's seen and done it an asshole! Excerpts:

Watching your character in the first episode of Crash, I thought to myself ‘So Frank Booth survived the gunshot to the head in Blue Velvet and became a record producer.’

(laughs) Yeah, right!

Who else would call someone an “eyeless fuck” but Frank Booth?
(laughs) Yeah, yeah. My first conversation with my penis in the limo with the young woman driver, it’s pretty hairy. When I hire the new driver, who’s black, and say “Gorillas in the mist, that’s what the LAPD call you,” he has no stop switch, my character. He says everything and insults everybody. He just goes for it.

Which at one time could have described you.
Yeah, probably. I guess so. It was so long ago now, I can’t remember. (laughs) Phil Spector and I had an office together for ten years, and people have asked me if I’m doing Phil Spector in this and I said ‘No. I’m doing me!’ (laughs)


I remember hearing you tell a story about snorting gasoline from your grandfather’s truck…
Yeah, and I looked up at the clouds and saw clowns, until I ODed on the fumes and smashed up his truck with a baseball bat, thinking it was a monster, smashing out the lights. (laughs) I was about seven. (laughs) Not good, but that was the end of my gas-sniffing.


I heard that during the filming of True Grit that John Wayne chased you around Paramount with a loaded gun?
(laughs) No, that’s not quite how it happened. He used to arrive on the lot via helicopter from his mine sweeper that he had moored in Newport Beach. He’d have a .45 strapped on his side, wearing army fatigues, and that’s the way he’d arrive to work every day. This one day he arrived, and he wanted to know where “that Pinko Hopper was hiding.” I was actually in Glen Campbell’s trailer, hiding from him. He was screaming “My daughter was out at UCLA last night and heard (Black Panther) Eldridge Cleaver cussing, and I know he must be a friend of that Pinko Hopper! Where is he? I want to talk to him!” So he wasn’t literally running around with a gun looking for me. He was walking around with a gun at his hip, but I think he wanted to have a political discussion, as opposed to committing actual manslaughter! (laughs) Anyway, nothing ever came of it. That was just Duke.


We have to talk about the character of Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. I read an interview with David Lynch where he said you called him after reading the script and said “David, you have to let me play this part because I am Frank Booth.”
Well actually, he’d already cast me, but I did call him after he’d cast me, and we’d never met at that point, and said ‘You haven’t made a mistake, because I am Frank Booth.” So supposedly he went back to the table with Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini and Laura Dern, they were all having lunch together, and said “I just got off the phone with Dennis Hopper, and he said that he was Frank Booth, which I guess is really good for the picture, but I don’t know how we’ll ever have lunch with him.” (laughs)

How were you Frank Booth?
I’d come out of a heavy drug life, and had known a lot of people like Frank. I didn’t mean that I was literally Frank Booth, but I’d certainly run into characters like Frank, and understood him. A big discrepancy came the first day we were shooting the big scene where Kyle is hiding in the closet and I come in demanding my bourbon and tell Isabella to spread her legs, and then this sort of horrendous rape scene occurs against her. None of us had met at this point and that was our first scene. (laughs) David had helium on the set, because in the script, the tank that Frank was constantly taking hits from was written as helium, which makes your voice really high, like Donald Duck. But it doesn’t disorient you in any way, it just makes you talk funny. So I said to David, ‘You know I always thought of this as being nitrous oxide or amyl nitrate or something.’ He said “What is that?” I said “Something that disorients your mind for a few minutes. I’m also having trouble acting with my voice sounding like this. So could I just show you what it would look like with the other stuff?” And I did, and David said “Oh, that’s great!” So we went with that, and I said ‘If you want to put the (helium) voice in later, in post, we can,’ and of course, we didn’t. So that was the only real contribution I made to that film, I guess. (laughs)

1 comment:

Herr Zrbo said...

I didn't realize Dennis Hopper was so old, he should be hangin' out with John McCain.

I guess I never thought of how many movies he's been in, but he does keep showing up all the time. I think the last film I saw him in was True Romance (along with every other famous actor from the last two decades, sans Tom Cruise).