R.I.P. Dennis Hopper

Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet

Movies lost a true giant and a champion this weekend, when Dennis Hopper died of prostate cancer May 29. It would be difficult to overstate his impact on American movies, but I will always remember the influential actor/director/writer for borrowing a pen.

It was a tiny moment amid bigger, more serious stuff, but it was my personal brush with his greatness, and I’d like to recount it, since others far more qualified than myself will analyze the cultural repercussions of Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, Hoosiers and Waterworld.

I met Hopper at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 when he was talking about two wildly diverse projects: Carried Away and the schlocky sci-fi flick Space Truckers (which was about…well, exactly what it sounded like it was about). To be fair, only Carried Away — a character piece about a middle-aged teacher who falls for a 17-year-old student — was entered at Sundance, and it earned some good buzz for Hopper and co-stars Amy Irving and Amy Locane. Clearly, there was a disconnect, and Hopper admitted the obvious: Doing one Space Truckers paid enough to allow him to do a year of personal projects like Carried Away.
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