Where Are All of the Honest Dennis Hopper Tributes?

Guess "hypocritical, unprincipled sellout" makes a tough eulogy.

He just received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He's prominently credited in some of the most important movies of the last 40 years. So why hasn't there been more fanfare surrounding the death of Dennis Hopper?

It may have, in part, to do with the absence of photos of his deathbed, but it probably has more to do with the unfulfilled promise of an entire generation. Because, while he was once representative of the anti-establishment upheaval of sixties and seventies counter-culture, much like his contemporaries he became as much a living metaphor for the unapologetic betrayal of the era's idealism.

While a case can be built on his personal politics and endorsement deals alone, nowhere is this more evident than in his choice of movie roles over the decades, a downward spiral that began in the 1980s and should in no way be interpreted as the cause for our empire's decline. But we're not ruling it out.


The quintessence of 1960s cultural insubordination. Freak flags flew nationwide, old social conventions were crumbling at their foundations and authority was finally getting the grilling it had long deserved. A new era was upon us. The hippies would have their day.



High off his own farts (and a Macchu Picchu of drugs) following the success of Easy Rider, Hopper hubristically starred in and directed this critically panned piece of masturbatory twaddle, an "extravagant mess," as one critic dubbed it. Someone get the sixties a couple of aspirin for its massive hangover.



Ordinarily, history is told by the winners. But in the case of the Vietnam War, it would be told by the objectors, starting here. Hopper's turn after eight years of obscurity as a verbally-incontinent burnout may not have tested his range, but it restored his credibility. The eighties look bright!



Again, it didn't take much personal digging to summon the persona of an alcoholic in this independently-produced tale of dysfunction and alienation, but taking over as director in the middle of shooting showed rare resolve and a commitment to the craft. Looks like our boomers are finally growing up!



WTF? Was this guy paying attention to his career arc at all? After improbably resurrecting his Hollywood profile, Hopper did six more years of cocaine like the rest of the eighties and settled on this worthy sequel to The Last Movie.



Filmmaker David Lynch quoted Hopper prior to production as saying, "You have to let me play Frank! Because I am Frank!" Yeah, well, Frank was an unimaginably sadistic, rapey miscreant on a perpetual amyl nitrate bender. Pretty sure those characteristics didn't make it into the final draft of the Hippie Manifesto.



There may be no character more emblematic of Dennis Hopper's entire life arc than the town drunk who is given a shot at redemption and throws it all up. Despite an Oscar-nominated performance in one of the most enduring films of the last 25 years, next up for the artist... the rebel... the icon: video game boss.



Not only did Hopper's return following seven years of relative obscurity not yield an absence-redeeming role, it marked the first entry in the worst of all Hollywood genres: the video game movie. Bob Hoskins called it "the worst thing [he] ever did." But Bob Hoskins didn't once "change the way movies were made in Hollywood."



A look at Hopper's resume from 1987 to 2010 suggests that his involvement in this radically original, boldly imaginative film was pure accident. The 10 minutes he shares onscreen with Christopher Walken comprise one of the most memorable scenes in history. It would be Hopper's last affirmative contribution to the culture.


SPEED (1994)

You may have seen Speed. You may even have liked Speed. But your'e never going to mistake Speed for The Godfather. Hopper's cartoonish turn as a disgruntled civil servant traded meaningful populist angst for comically maniacal schmaltz. Is this what Jack Nicholson died for?



An awfully pinko production for a self-professed Reagan Republican. Which is an awfully fascist self-profession for an icon of the hippie subculture. Either way, this movie sucked. Having openly abandoned any pursuit of art at this point, Hopper followed the money -- the most ever spent on a movie at the time.



Was this guy just f@ing with us?


E-RING (2005)

Having somehow missed military service while of draft age, Hopper made up for it by playing a colonel without irony in this TV military drama. He was quoted during this time fervently endorsing President George W. Bush's policies, including the decision to wage a war that in no way resembled the one he protested in Vietnam.



"All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut. " Don't forget someone with a sizable nest egg! Hopper's quote from Easy Rider combined with his recent retirement plan pitches to fellow bohos illustrates the wholesale liquidation his erstwhile principles have undergone. "Them" is him.



Adding insult to perjury, this openly conservative satire of, oh, everything for which Hopper and his generation once claimed to stand currently enjoys a 12-percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In it, shots are fired at higher education, Muslims, and functioning senses of humor.



Despite feminism's gains following the activism of the sixties, it was John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as running mate that solidified Hopper's decision to vote for Barack Obama. Having voted for George W. Bush in two elections, it was evidently within Hopper's politics for a candidate to be witless, just not a witless woman.

Read the article at Premiere.com.