Rarely do I give a shit when a celebrity dies, but Dennis Hopper was fucking important. He was important to movies and he was important to anyone who appreciates the art of villainry (is that even a word?)
Hopper's acting and directing efforts on Easy Rider helped (briefly) transform Hollywood into a town run by the artists instead of the business dorks. Easy Rider set off what some call the New Hollywood. It opened the doors for Scorsese, Lucas, Spielberg, Friedkin, Ashby, even Coppola, who was working before, but would never have been able to make The Conversation or Apocalypse Now if Easy Rider hadn't demonstrated to the suits and ties in the air-conditioned offices in Hollywood and Burbank that Americans weren't nearly as stupid as those cynical fucks had previously assumed. Of course, Spielberg and Lucas accidentally ruined the party by revealing America's love for b-pictures done with a-budgets. Ever since Jaws and Star Wars, Hollywood has been giving us the same movie again and again and again and again...
I felt the lack of creativity coming from Hollywood even when I was a young teenager. By 1987, I understood that the gritty, realistic pictures of the 1970s were finished. Then Blue Velvet came along and changed my thinking about all art. Frank Booth was an inspiration of evil. I laughed and laughed at his antics, knowing full well society frowns on people who exhibit freedom in its most honest forms. Frank Booth was like Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange) or Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver), he went well beyond society's parameters of acceptable behavior. Twenty-plus years later, I still laugh when I watch Blue Velvet. Since we are confined by polite society in real life, it is always refreshing to have a vicarious surrogate who can walk through the world doing exactly what he or she wants.
Hopper did a lot of work that a lot of people will remember for a lot of different reasons. His character in Apocalypse Now is hysterical, especially if you know how much cocaine he was doing at the time. He carved out a perfect archetype for the movie Hoosiers (my motion picture debut!) that has forever since been imitated (how many sports movies have somebody in a hospital jumping up and down while listening to The Big Game on the radio? Thanks, Dennis.) How about Hopper's role as a young neo-nazi in the original Twilight Zone series? Does anybody out there remember his turn as Billy Clanton in Gunfight at the OK Corral? The guy put some miles on the movie and television screen.
As for me, I'll remember Hopper as Frank Booth. Always. One of less than a handful of perfect interpretations of evil.