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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

(continued from page 6)

Hopper kicks off 2001 with Knockaround Guys, costarring John Malkovich and directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. In the movie, Hopper portrays Benny "Chains" Demaret, a cigar-smoking wise guy.

"Benny is a cold man, but we wanted him to have a hint of warmth," Levien says. "Dennis brings that. He plays a guy who is trapped in a life he hates and wants more for his kid."

As Benny, Hopper also wanted more cigars.

"We shot in Toronto, so we had access to real [Cuban] Montecristos," says Koppleman. "The prop guy was really nervous because he saw how much of an appetite Dennis had for the cigars and he thought, 'Oh, my God, if I have to keep clipping these cigars, we're gonna go through two boxes in a day!'"

Hopper's irrepressible spirit and zest for life surprised both directors.

"I think some of his past performances, like Frank in Blue Velvet, are so distinctive that Dennis still unnerves people 10 years later," Koppleman says.

"In real life, Dennis is much closer to the Keebler elf," adds Levien.

 

ennis Hopper was born on May 17, 1936. The first son of Marjorie and Jay M. Hopper spent his early years on a farm outside of Dodge City, Kansas, where films fueled his imagination.

"I grew up in the Dust Bowl and the first light I saw was in the movie theater," Hopper says. "My grandmother really used to fill her apron with eggs; we'd walk a few miles to Dodge City. She'd sell the eggs and we'd buy movie tickets."


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