Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

“I’m your friend, man”: a tribute to Dennis Hopper

I am extremely saddened by the passing of Dennis Hopper.  I had the pleasure of doing a script reading with him, Linda Lavin (oh yes!), and a few of my actor pals in Wilmington, NC a few years ago.  Mr. Hopper had a script that he was considering producing, and he needed some actors to do a table read, which we were all, of course, thrilled to do. 

When I met him, I was surprised.  My first impression was of a cool, kind-of-grandad figure.  He exuded a paternal warmth, he was quiet, cordial, and had on an excellent silver bracelet.  I thought to myself, “Huh? This mild-mannered sweetheart is Dennis HOPPER?!? This is Billy, Feck, and Frank?? THIS guy?” Not that I was disappointed, mind you–he was, after all, adorable and kind.  But it was pretty anti-climatic, all the same.

We all settled down to read.  About halfway through, just as I was secretly congratulating myself on how cool of a customer I was turning out to be in the face of such greatness, we heard an ominous rumble.  The room shuddered just the slightest bit…and then all hell broke loose. 

The ancient ceiling of this downtown Wilmington edifice, circa 1890, weakened by recent torrential rainfall, suddenly broke free with a thunderous roar and gushed a nasty, asbestos and muck-filled waterfall right down on the heads of Linda Lavin and my good friend, Morgan Jarrett. 

Linda Lavin, incidentally, was wearing an all-white pants suit…

The water hit them with the force of a thousand dump trucks.  It then continued on its path towards me, Robert Rogan (another local actor), and Dennis.  We jumped up and fled for safety behind the couch we were sitting on, but still managed to get hit about ankle deep with the flooding.  The whole room was dead silent.  And then suddenly I became aware of a low murmur…

“Holy SHIT, motherfucker what the fuck did you fucking see that shit holy SHIT holy SHIT what the FUCK!!!!”

It was Dennis Hopper. 

Ahhhh….music to my motherfucking ears!  All of us turned our attention from poor Linda and Morgan, covered in black muck and looking forlornly drenched, and watched Dennis Hopper, screen legend, lose himself in a string of unpenetrably thick profanity.  We were enthralled, enraptured, and all else was forgotten as we lost ourselves in the sudden realization of who the fuck we were in the room with.  We were in the same room as DENNIS HOPPER, by GOD!! Even Ms. Lavin looked dumbstruck (although admittedly she was hit pretty hard…).  We all just stared in open-mouthed, completely innocent, wonderment and listened to Mr. Hopper regale us with every four letter word known to man…and some that surely aren’t.  He eventually wound himself slowly down.  And we all clapped.

A few days after that, I was heading into Caprice Bistro, a local eatery and martini bar, and Mr. Hopper was coming out.  Completely forgetting my manners, I grabbed his arm and said, “Hey! Dennis! (Cos you know, surely we were on a first-name basis…ahem…) It’s Joyanna!”

Blank, polite stare.

“I did the script reading with you a couple of days ago–with the waterfall?”

“Oh FUCK YEAH! Holy FUCK wasn’t that the craziest shit you’ve ever seen i have NEVER seen some shit like that before BOOM out of nowhere i swear that shit was so crazy….!!”

Ahhh, bliss, bliss, and more bliss.  I patted him and thanked him for letting me read with him, and then went inside, shaking ever so slightly.

After all.  It’s fucking Dennis HOPPER.

Learning of his death, I teared up.  I still keep tearing up.  What a lovely, lovely man.  So of course, when I learned that my beloved New Beverly Cinema was doing a Dennis Hopper night with a double feature of River’s Edge and Rumble Fish, complete with a Q&A with Tim Hunter and Daniel Roebuck, Paul and I jumped at the chance to remember this riveting, ridiculously talented human being.

Because this blog is getting quite long already (oh how I do love to ramble on), and because, to be honest, if you haven’t seen River’s Edge yet, you’re on my loser list and I’m not going to dignify your ignorance with a plot summary (Just kidding! Calm down! But seriously I’m not, so watch the movie on yer own time, buddy), I’ll just give you some of the highlights of trivia learned that night:

  • Feck’s house was located in Tujunga, CA.  It was condemned and torn down about a week after filming.  It has since been replaced by an either “purple or pink condo building,” according to Roebuck.
  • Tim Hunter loved the script so much that he shot the FIRST DRAFT of it.  Additionally, there was pretty much zero improv from the cast, by their choice, for that very same reason.
  • Tim Hunter wanted Dennis Hopper to play Feck so badly, he threatened to use Timothy Carey, and even went so far as to have Carey auditioning with other actors.  Finally the studio backed down.  (David Ryder, I know you’ll like that one!)
  • Ione Skye (then Ione Skye Lietch) was cast in the role of Clarissa from a modeling picture in LA Weekly by Hunter himself.
  • Regarding the scene where Feck (Hopper) is crying and telling John (Roebuck) about killing his girl: Hopper was reported to have finished filming the scene, and then he hung his head and quietly murmured, “Natalie.  I was thinking of Natalie.”  (meaning Natalie Wood)
  • The kick ass soundtrack, featuring mostly Slayer and C.O.C., was chosen because it was so cheap to buy the rights, but was hand-picked by Hunter himself.
  • This isn’t trivia about the film, but it’s just awesome-the New Beverly played nothing but Dio (RIP Ronnie James) while we were waiting for the movie to start.

Mr. Hopper–I’m your friend, man.  Thank you for everything you have given the film world, the art world, and me.

05/17/36 to 05/29/10

One Response to ““I’m your friend, man”: a tribute to Dennis Hopper”

  1. Hey, the way I wrote his birth and death dates looks like he died 26 years before he was born. Oops.

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