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Dennis Hopper on Natalie Wood, Elvis Presley, Michelle Phillips and Apocalypse Lost

by Tim Appelo
May 31, 2010 8:14 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

Tim Appelo dug into his Dennis Hopper files and found the late actor talking about Natalie Wood’s orgy error, Elvis Presley's sex and acting lesson, Michelle Phillips’ D.H. Lawrence collaboration, and the lost Apocalypse Now scene he’d most like to see:

Here are a few things Dennis Hopper told me in 1995:

--On the orgy starring “all the cool kids” of the Rebel Without a Cause era, which Dennis claimed Natalie Wood would only attend if they gave her a champagne bath, which gave her such a crotch rash she shrieked and had to be rushed to the hospital, thus missing the whole orgy:
“God, I’m weird that I would talk about this. But it was funny.”

--On his crazy days at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house in Taos:
“There were so many bedrooms, so many ways in and out of that place, I was just too paranoid. I moved outta there and into Tony’s house [where heiress Mabel’s Pueblo husband Tony Lujan lived in the ‘20s.) I’d come in to have breakfast in the kitchen, there’d be 30 people in there I’d never seen before. I’d say, ‘What happened to the beer in the refrigerator?’ and they said, ‘Who are you?’ I edited The Last Movie there.

Appelo: I stayed there—it’s a hotel now. The bathroom windows are covered by faux-Indian paintings by D.H. Lawrence.

“Michelle Phillips [who married Dennis for a week or two in Taos] repainted those at one point. Yeah, I mean, she just got the same colors and went over them.”

--On how Elvis inspired Dennis to keep his multiple comeback roles in the ‘90s fresh and new:
“Each one’s different. That’s what Elvis told me. It was in the ‘50s, pre-Pill and pre-pantyhose…it was a little more difficult to score, is what I’m tryin’ to say. But Elvis didn’t have that problem. So I went to se him in the Beverly Wilshire and he had six women waiting for him, all who I knew and all who I knew didn’t fool around, and all who were going in for a quickie. So he would take one in, another 20 minutes, another one would go out and in there. And I said, ‘Elvis, are you fucking all those women?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, how the hell do you get it up, man? And he said, ‘Each one of ‘em’s different!’ That’s all I can tell ya. Each part’s different. That’s all I know. Ha, ha, ha!”

--On his lost moment from Apocalypse Now, where he plays a rampageous photojournalist:

“I’d like to see the scene where my [character] dies. ‘Cause I had a great death scene in that. I had 258 squibs. But that was literally all improvised.”

Appelo: What was good about the death scene?

“It’s just that I don’t think anybody ever had 258 squibs on their body. Buh-buh-buh-buh! Everybody shot me, and I took their photo—[tape ends].”

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