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Dennis Hopper: Rennaissance Rebel

Once spurned by Hollywood and nearly destroyed by drugs, Dennis Hopper has resurrected his life and his art.
Elizabeth Snead
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Hopper, Jan/Feb 01

The river flows, it flows to the sea
Wherever that river goes, that's where I want to be
Flow river flow, let your waters wash down
Take me from this road to some other town
All I wanted was to be free
And that's the way it turned out to be...

-- "Ballad of Easy Rider," by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds


My last thought was, 'Nobody lives through this.'"

There is no doubt that Dennis Hopper entertained that notion on more than a few occasions during his decades of excess.

But Hopper, seated in the loft office of his ultramodern home in Venice Beach, California, is recalling a day two years ago when he, his young son, Henry, and two buddies were in Jamaica, heading to a golf course to play a few holes. As they drove through a small village, a speeding truck barreled head-on into their car.

Hopper's friends were badly injured in the crash -- broken legs, head traumas -- but Hopper climbed out of the passenger seat without a scratch. He pulled Henry, now 10 years old, from the backseat, covered in splattered blood, also eerily unhurt.

"At that point, I really thought, maybe there is a force looking out for me, because I can't figure out how we survived," Hopper says, shaking his head in amazement as he puffs on a Punch cigar.

There are those who can't figure out how Hopper, 64, now a sober, successful actor, director and internationally acclaimed artist, managed to live through the wild and crazy sex, drugs and rock and roll era.

"And there are probably a lot more people who hoped I wouldn't," Hopper says, laughing a milder version of his infamous cackle.

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