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Remembering Dennis Hopper: A retrospective video interview

James Wallace

May 29th, 2010

As many of us lovers of film were, I was deeply saddened when I heard the news today that Dennis Hopper had passed at the age of 74. The world lost a legend today.

Not one year ago, I had the privilege and the pleasure of interviewing the iconic actor while at the CineVegas Film Festival. I can say with the deepest sincerity and gratitude that it still is, and always will be, one of the true highlights of my young life. Mr. Hopper could not have been sweeter or more kind-hearted to me, a young man that has grown up idolizing his early career with films like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and GIANT, not to mention his dear friend and another iconic actor James Dean.

Our interview was a very special one, in that it was simply an engaging conversation between an actor and an admirer about the man's early career. I got the sense that it was not a period he was often asked about any more, as he seemed more than willing to talk about the beginnings of his acting career, being a part of "Old Hollywood" cinema, being pals with Dean, and film in general. There was a room full of people as you will hear in the interview but, for me, it felt as if we were the only two people in the room.

Though it was only 11 minutes long, I will forever remember and cherish this opportunity for the rest of my days. When something special is recorded you fear that, in rewatching it, it will not live up to the actual memories you carry with you from said event. For me, this is not the case. I am lucky to have a record of my brief yet very special time with Mr. Hopper. And I am even more lucky to have met him. The last thing he said to me in our interview was "Whatever you want, you get. It's the dream that makes you do it." You can see my interview after the break, along with my original write-up for it.

Dennis Hopper from GordonandtheWhale.com on Vimeo.

What happens when you get the chance to sit down and interview an icon, a legend of cinema like Dennis Hopper? A lot of things ran through my mind when I found out I would have such an opportunity. This interview was so truly special to me on multiple levels, the first being the obvious legendary status Mr. Hopper holds. The second being that the man was in both GIANT and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, acting right along side another legend and icon, James Dean.

Not only have these two films been a huge source of inspiration in my life, but Dean himself has had an equal presence of inspiration when it comes to my love of cinema. Mr. Hopper could not have been more cordial or more willing to sit and converse about his experiences on these films and what it was like being friends with Dean, even going so far as to getting choked up at one point. It was unreal. Truly unreal.

I left with the thought that I should be always be thankful. Rather, that I should always be grateful and humble because, for whatever reason, I am fortunate enough to get to do what I love – that love being film, a love I have had since I was young, which is when I was first exposed to films like REBEL and GIANT. For me, that love was forged and born with films like these. I, as well as my Gordon and the Whale brethren, have been fortunate enough to have our endeavors take us to some pretty incredible places where we’ve been able to experience some pretty incredible things and met some pretty incredible people. For me personally, one of those was the amazing opportunity to talk to someone like Dennis Hopper, a true sweetheart of a man and a genuinely great actor for a generation, past and present.

I would also like to note that, after doing multiple cuts of the interview and thinking about how I wanted to present it, I have decided to leave it intact in its raw form so that, hopefully, you can share in what it was really like to casually sit down with Mr. Hopper and have a conversation.

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  • http://www.radiofreealbemuth.com John Alan Simon

    Really lovely interview…..what year did it take place?
    I first got to know Dennis when I distributed his movie Out of the Blue in the We travelled around the country together. I watched him encounter a wide variety of humanity. He had no patience for phonies or fame groupies or pretense of any kind. Hence his reputation sometimes for rudeness. Your genuine appreciation of his friend James Dean and open excitement about interviewing him brought out the gentle, warm and generous side of Dennis that many of us were very privileged to know. I've just directed my first feature film – and Dennis' encouragement and inspiration and advice about working with actors really helped make that possible.

  • Ryan Hald

    When Dennis Hopper first meets Martin Sheen and starts talking about Kurtz and his leadership. He's also undeniably scary as Frank in Blue Velvet.

  • Ryan Hald

    When Dennis Hopper first meets Martin Sheen and starts talking about Kurtz and his leadership. He's also undeniably scary as Frank in Blue Velvet.

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