None of us will ever forget one of the most remarkable, if not the most remarkable films of the sixties, Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and of course Dennis Hopper. The award- winning film was nominated for two Oscars and had ten other wins and nominations. It first premiered in Sweden in June of 1969 and received a unique recognition in Cannes, making Dennis Hopper an international household name overnight. My generation was not even born yet, still the movie lives on in all of us forever, which all by itself is an astonishing recognition and a phenomenal achievement: the next generation following well over twenty, thirty years into the existence of this masterpiece, welcoming the film as one of our own principles about freedom! Only a genius artist can make that happen.
Besides the unusual success of the film, few of us knew that it was actually written and directed by Dennis Hopper, and the director of photography was Laszlo Kovacs, a famous Hungarian cinematographer with more than one hundred major Hollywood films under his belt, including Miss Congeniality, Multiplicity, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Shampoo, Huckleberry Finn, Paper Moon with Ryan O’Neill and the list is endless. Sadly, Laszlo Kovacs just like Hopper himself has also recently passed on and left a legacy behind that is hard, if not impossible, to match. Both of these extraordinary men shared something in common: both of them were true to themselves, gentlemen with rare, classy and elegant charm, politeness and a touch of shyness with humble personalities, a great deal of kindness and unparalleled modesty. In my book, this is the sign of a true talent, an incredible soul, and a special mindset that bestows success. Not because success is sought out, but because of the humble and brilliant mindset that cannot help but manifests success wherever it goes. Success by touching other’s lives though its pure existence.
In one of the last interviews with Dennis Hopper, in the evening at the â€œCinÃ©mathÃ¨que FranÃ§aiseâ€ , a palace of glass and cement, located at Bercy, a suburb of Paris where the seemingly indestructible 72 year old artist appeared fragile despite his natural and always present upbeat personality, when we touch on the topic that he played death himself for Wim Wenders Hopper said â€œI would have preferred to suppress the thought of death for a little while longer.â€
During the opening night of a Dennis-Hopper-retrospective, where he would be celebrated with a screening of his movies, from Easy Rider to Apocalypse Now , as well as an exhibition of his photographs and paintings, he was pure charm and charisma, celebrating the presence of those who loved and appreciated him.
Wim Wenders, a dear friend of Hopper, (who predicted that Hopper will live to be a hundred, then revised his prediction to the late seventies) was raving about Dennis’s wisdom and kindness to which Hopper’s replied:
â€œWell, if you want to appear as wise and kind, it is helpful not to drink or to take any hard drugs, which is something I have managed to do for 24 years. All my drug problems had started with my shyness. Even though I had decided to live a public life, it was always difficult for me to exist in the public sphere. Drinking and taking drugs helped me to cope with this dilemma. They liberated me, and at the same time, they destroyed me. At one point it had to end, in one way or the other. As for Wim, he knows me in both conditions â€“ and I can’t help, but my suspicion is that he prefers the present one!â€
I would of course enjoy writing this article so much more had Dennis Hopper not been gone, with him answering questions with a shy, but charmingly smiley face. But, I share a great deal of sadness with those who really loved him. The loss that one feels down to one’s core, and every cell of one’s body when a loved one is gone. Like I loved my Father, Steven Papp, who also just recently passed at almost the same age as Dennis Hopper. My Father did not even look that different from him and is perhaps the only man I ever really loved besides one platonic affair that has been the drive of my life along with my Father’s unconditional and affectionate love for me since I can ever remember. Dennis Hopper and my father shared one thing that I know about: the question, which I heard from both: â€œ If you could not create, would you die?â€
And, as I ponder over it, I would certainly say, â€œyes.â€
I did not know Hopper enough to be able to answer for him, but I know he would not have asked the question if he would not have felt just like my father, the answer, which is in the question. Yes, you would. I would. If I do not create every single day something new, a sickening feeling sets in and I MUST at least think a new thought, make a new plan, or do something that is on the list of â€œ must change/do/create/achieve, etcâ€¦â€
Like Hopper did. He had a weakness: a shyness, just like I do, my Father did, and so many great people, â€“ but you get up and go every single day and concur just a tiny bit and you will be fine in the end. Dennis Hopper started as a nervous young man and became a rebel, a maverick and when Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures called him in and learned that up to that point Dennis had done nothing but Shakespeare, which he seemed to discount, Dennis walked out with a big â€œFuck you!â€ out loud, â€“ for which he got a contract from Warner and met his big mentor, James Dean!
I personally remember Dennis Hopper most from Speed in 1994 where he technically stole the screen from Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock despite of playing a negative character. Role after role Hopper stood out for one thing: he was a real flesh and blood character, no â€œacting,â€ no pretending, just genuine talent! The talent that will live forever! The creator will die but its work will live on.
Dennis Hopper: â€œI think that Easy Rider will stay with us for a while. Maybe also Out of the Blue, now that the CinÃ©mathÃ¨que has a copy of it. And one or the other of my photographs, like the ones of Martin Luther King, Warhol, Rauschenberg, all those pioneers in the arts, before they became famous. But one certainly thinks that one could have achieved moreâ€¦â€
â€œAnd that is why we continueâ€¦â€
in Memoriam of Steven Papp, Dennis Hopper and Laszlo Kovacs