Dennis Hopper died this morning at home in Venice, likely from complications of advanced prostate cancer. In 1955, Hopper appeared on television in an episode of "Medic" and on screen in "Rebel Without a Cause" as a teenaged gang member opposite James Dean — and a long and volatile Hollywood career was off and running. Hopper's talked-about performances as an actor came in films such as "Apocalypse Now," "Blue Velvet," "Hoosiers," "Cool Hand Luke," "True Grit," "Speed" and even "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." He also did dozens of TV westerns and other shows. Everything changed for him when he directed and starred in "Easy Rider," the 1969 tale of two druggie bikers on a cross-country odyssey, with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. "The impact of 'Easy Rider,' both on the filmmakers and the industry as a whole, was no less than seismic," Peter Biskind wrote in his 1998 book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood." "Hopper was catapulted into the pantheon of countercultural celebrities that included John Lennon, Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary." Hopper himself explained the film's cultural impact this way: "Nobody had ever seen themselves portrayed in a movie. At every love-in across the country people were smoking grass and dropping LSD, while audiences were still watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson." Hopper was nominated for two Oscars in his career, for the "Easy Rider" screenplay and for supporting actor in "Hoosiers." He was playing the character of Ben Cendars on the Starz series "Crash" when he took ill.
From Roger Ebert: "His acting took such shape because he was able to reinvent himself as a character. More than many actors , he created characters we remember vividly for themselves: James Dean's sidekick in 'Rebel,' Marlon Brando's drug-crazed acolyte in 'Apocalypse Now,' the terrifying gas-sniffing pervert of 'Blue Velvet,' the town drunk in 'Hoosiers,' a hit man in 'Red Rock West,' the villain in 'Waterworld.'"
Hopper also had a reputation as a photographer and supporter of the arts, dating back to the legendary Ferus Gallery on La Cienega. Hopper's art will be the subject of a show opening July 11 at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary space Downtown, the first show under new museum director Jeffrey Deitch. The show's title, Double Standard, comes from Hopper’s 1961 photograph of two Standard Oil signs seen through a windshield at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, and North Doheny Drive in what's now West Hollywood. "The image was reproduced on the invitation for Ed Ruscha’s second solo exhibition at Ferus Gallery in 1964," MOCA says.