DENNIS HOPPER, 1936-2010
News of Dennis Hopper’s death, at his home in Venice, California, reached us on Saturday, 29 May and deeply saddened us. He was 74. We had the immense good fortune to be his hosts at the Cinémathèque Française in October 2008, for the opening of an exhibition devoted entirely to him: “Dennis Hopper et le Nouvel Hollywood.” Dennis Hopper showed great courtesy to our staff and the many journalists who questioned him about his life and career, placing himself entirely at their disposal. He also took great pleasure in conversing with the Cinémathèque audience, which was delighted to be meeting an idol and icon of world cinema.
Dennis Hopper spent over 50 years in cinema, after his début alongside James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955). His film career as an actor brought him into contact with many a major director: Roger Corman, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, Bob Rafelson, Abel Ferrara, Robert Altman, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sean Penn and many others. He caused a stir in Hollywood in 1969 with Easy Rider, his first film as director: a nihilist, metaphysical road-movie with an explosive sound track that turned into an entire generation’s cult movie. Dennis Hopper, as symbol of refusal to conform, was the incarnation of a libertarian cinema on the verge of breakdown, at the time when another America was making itself heard and seen, that of black emancipation, pop festivals and sit-ins against the Vietnam War.
He went into photography in the sixties, becoming a friend of the major Pop Art figures: Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman, George Herms and many others.
Actor and director (The Last Movie, Out of the Blue, Colors), photographer and painter, major collector of contemporary art, jack-of-all trades of genius, Dennis Hopper was the multifaceted artist par excellence. His whole life was a succession of experiences that placed him at the centre of the great artistic and cultural revolutions that shook America for half a century. “As soon as I was on the film set, I got the feeling cinema was the fullest and most achieved artistic expression,” he told Matthieu Orléan, curator of the Cinématèque exhibition. “No art involved photography, design, architecture, music, literature until then… Movies encompassed all the art I knew. What mattered to me was getting the pursuit of art, one way or another, into the Hollywood industry.”
It was to pay tribute to him and foster a better knowledge of these multiple facets in France that the Cinémathèque Française organised that fine exhibition (15 October 2008 to 19 January 2009). The Cinémathèque Française extends its sincere sympathy to his family and loved ones and will always treasure the memory of that kind, generous, talented man.
Costa-Gavras Serge Toubiana
Chairman Director General