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Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

It's probably corny to describe Dennis Hopper as an "icon among iconoclasts", but the mark he left on motion picture history was notable and much admired. And not just because he lived to the age of 74 despite decades of drugs and alcohol.

Hopper died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was meant to visit Australia last year to open an exhibition of his photography in Melbourne. He had to pull out at the last minute, and made no further public appearances.

As I have done with many other motion picture figures whom I have admired, I have assembled a subjective top ten of my favourite Dennis Hopper films. In some he plays minor roles, and I have included one film which he directed but did not act in. Here we go, in chronological order:

"Rebel Without A Cause" (1955) - co-starring with James Dean.
"Gunfight At OK Corral" (1957) - a great Western, his role is minor.
"Cool Hand Luke" (1967) - again, a minor role in a great film.
"Easy Rider" (1969) - directed and co-starred
"Mad Dog Morgan" (1976) - read director Philippe Mora's January 2010 account of the making of this film.
"The American Friend" (1977) - Hopper directed by Wenders. Could have been sublime, but memorable in its failings.
"Apocalypse Now" (1979)
"Blue Velvet" (1986)
"Hoosiers" (1986)
"Colors" (1988) - Hopper directed but did not act in this Sean Penn/Robert Duvall LA cop drama (which is hardly a fair summarisation)

The one Dennis Hopper film I regret not seeing to date? "The Last Movie" (1971). See this 2006 Village Voice article on its re-release.

The camp classic that I have seen but can't ignore? That Sunday afternoon TV staple "The Story of Mankind" (1957) in which Hopper plays the role of Napoleon Bonaparte. Catch this clip on Youtube before it disappears.

And speaking of warped interpretations of historical events, another film I haven't seen (and have no urgent plans to see) is the only film in which both Hopper and Gary Coleman, who died around 24 hours earlier, appeared - the 2008 right-wing pisstake on Michael Moore, "An American Carol".