Remembering an Explosive Encounter with Dennis Hopper

In 1983 I filmed & edited this blown out video (below) shot on Beta movie (not Betacam SP) of Dennis Hopper during his visit to the the Media Center at Rice. The dynamite coffin stunt could not be performed at Rice for saftey/insurance reasons, so Hopper hired a fleet of school buses to transport the audience to a race track north of town off Hopper road. Hopper brought in a Hollywood stuntman to design the event & all went as planned. The video clearly shows how out of control our hero was at this time who was being supplied with a steady diet of exotic substances.

Hopper and Nicholson at the 62nd Academy Awards

My memories of Hopper during his visit include a sad telephone conversation with Jack Nicholson’s secretary where Hopper was trying unsuccessfully to speak with Jack the “star” who was in Houston making Terms of Endearment. Rather than a cutting edge figure, Hopper constantly reflected back to the Hollywood of the fifties telling great yarns about the “titans” of the film industry including Henry Hathaway, John Wayne and of course his great mentor, James Dean. What Hopper liked about this mixed bag of characters was that they did what they wanted & to hell with everyone else. He seems to have modeled his life on this simple value.

Hopper vanished into Mexico following his Houston experience & the last I heard he was seen running naked through some city street. Too tough to be destroyed by such self abuse, Hopper later appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, recovered, regenerated & ready…!

p.s. I forgot to mention that the large guy making the sign of the cross is the writer Terry Southern and the jerk threatening to blow up my camera is the German filmmaker, Wim Wenders.

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