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March 02, 1987 - Image 19

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-03-02
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V
VV V

is evidence of someboconsumed by
art. Paintings and postcards broadcast
modern messages on every wall. Even
the closets are lined with his photo-
graphs of artists. Up in the highest cor-
ner of the ceiling, hanging on a little
stage, are three papier-mach6 skeletons
from Mexico's Day of the Dead cele-
bration, engaged in swordplay. The liv-
ing room is dominated by a 15-foot-
high painting by Chuck Arnoldi,
laminated wood splashed with blues
and greens and slashed with a chain
saw. When he sat down on a gray couch
near the painting during a recent inter-
view, Hopper looked as solid as a judge.
Q. In 1958, being the latest pretty-
boy actor, you talked of wanting to
direct. What triggered this desire?
A. I wanted to direct since I was 13
and playing Shakespeare in a theater in
San Diego. I went under contract to
Warner Bros. because Nick Ray said I
would get a part in Rebel Without a
Cause, and there was a possibility of a
part in Giant. When I got to Rebel
Without a Cause, I realized it was a
director's medium. With the exception
f James Dean, who was doing his own
clocking and his own stuff, the actors
were basically being used by the direc-
tor. I got very interested in directing.
Also, Dean talked about directing.
Q. Could he have been a director?
A. It's not a matter of "could have."
He could have done anything he want-
ed. A producer on Giant was going to
sign him to direct The Actor; which was
a sort of cheap paperback novel. [Dean
was killed in a car crash before Giant
was finished.] That's where I started
thinking about it. Jimmy said, "You
gotta go out and take photographs,
learn about art, learn about literature,
even if you want to be an actor."
So I carried a camera with me wher-
ever I went. That's how friends related
to me: "Here comes the Tourist." I have
a book out called Out of the '60s. It's the
photographs I took from 1961 to 1967.
Artists and civil rights and love-ins. It
was a lot easier for me to focus a camera
on somebody than dealing with one-on-
one communication.
Q. Who were your most signifi-
cant influences?
A. When I was a kid, Orson Welles
and Barrymore. Then when I was 13, I
saw Marlon Brando and Montgomery
Clift in movies the same week, and it
changed my life. My thinking about
acting changed from this grand, kind of
thing to trying to figure out what was
an internal actor and what were these
people doing.
Then meeting James Dean, certain-
ly. Dean was working in areas that
were way over my head. He was exter-
nalizing real feelings. He was doing
18 Ampersand's Entertainment Guide

things you n't really see-except for Wf film where they didn't lWe to do a
maybe Crispin Glover [in River's whole lot of thinking. What Spielberg
Edge]. He does such strange things, al- and Lucas came up with. But I didn't
most like a dancer. Jimmy was like even get the opportunity to go that far.
that. This is at a time in the '50s when Universal said they wouldn't distribute
actors only did the script. But Jimmy it but for two weeks in Los Angeles,
did the script and then some. Like in three days in San Francisco, and then
Rebel Without a Cause, when they ar- they'd shelve it. So there went my ca-
rest him for being drunk and disorder- reer as a director.
ly, they start searching him and he Also, I'd left Los Angeles. I'd moved
starts laughing like they're tickling him. to Taos. Never came back, until recent-
There was nothing written about that. ly. The only work I could get was in
Europe. I can't say I vasn't angry and
didn't always get away with Q. There are two perspectives to
such improvisation. He had your career: the not-sober view and
his famed contretemps with the sober one.
director Henry Hathaway, for in- A. True. I was a mess, hearing voices,
stance, in Hell to Texas. The tough old going crazy. I was in New Mexico,
director, whom Hopper figured was Houston, Austin, Mexico. I ended up
just a "screamer-yeller-maniac," put here. I heard my friends being mur-
the actor through some 80 takes of one dered in the next room. I was doing half
scene. With his reputation thus soiled, an ounce of cocaine every few days. I
Hopper endured an unofficial black- was drinking a half-gallon of rum, then
listing for years, finding work on over a couple of bags of coke to sober up. I
140 television shows instead. wasn't falling-down drunk and won-
Eventually, he found a second career dering where people were. I was pretty
in the burgeoning film scene generated straight when I made Rumble Fish.
by Roger Corman's cheap quickies at Q. When did you say, "No more"?
American International. This sprawl- A. When I ended up incarcerated.
ing kingdom of B-movies was the train- And hearing voices out on the telephone
ing ground for a group of moviemakers lines. It was a progressive trip. The
who went on to form the brain trust of hard part is getting over your obsession.
American cinema: Francis Coppola, I'm over that now. I don't give a f--- if
Martin Scorsese, Robert Towne, you put a pound of cocaine on the table.
among others. Hopper's friend, Peter I don't want to open my mind; I'm
Fonda, another Hollywood reprobate, lucky I have a mind to open up.
had scored in 1966 with The Wild An- Actually, [Easy Rider producer] Bert
gels, and Hopper had starred in an un- Schneider got me out. I was in a lock-up
wholesome embroidery called The Glo- for the drug situation. I couldn't get out.
ry Stompers. Scuzzy though they might I was taken out of there and put in Ce-
have been, the motorcycle flicks were dars-Sinai Psychiatric. Bert said come
hugely profitable. The movie poster on out to the house. I was pretty lucky
alone of Fonda sitting on his Harley in that there was no kidney or liver
sold something like 16 million. But damage. It's really amazing when the
while they knew a big market was out telephone wires start talking to you.
there, by the late '60s both actors had Q. What's the story behind your
sworn off doing any biker movies. next directorial assignment, Colors?
Then Fonda came up with the idea of A. It's about two cops downtown,
doing one as a modern western. With and street gangs. There's a program
its blast-of-doom finale (which was called CRASH-Community Research
then as necessary as an erstatz-Rocky Against Street Hoodlums. Both Sean
finish is to an '80s film like Hoosiers) and Duvall are cops.
the $420,000 Easy Rider brought in a Sean brought me into it about a year
fast $40 million. These shattering prof- ago. I ripped the script apart, which
its, coming at a time when Hollywood was set in Chicago. They were dealing
was swamped by $20 million flops like in cough syrup, and there was this big
Star! and Hello, Dolly, helped bring bust that saved the world from this
about the era of interesting filmmaking cough syrup dealing. It was total bull-
that existed in the early '70s. shit. So I said change it to Los Angeles,
Q. Your cut was seven percent of make it a young cop-older cop thing and
the gross. Did all that money and make it about gangs, really real, which
success throw you a curve? is heroin, cocaine, PCP. They said no-
A. No, what threw me a curve is that body wants to see that stuff, and I said
I went and made The Last Movie right they don't want to see anything about
after-I didn't take a break. I won the cough syrup. And you don't have one
Venice Film Festival for The Last Mov- bust and save everybody from street
ie, and it's a film I'm proud of. But I gangs. Anyhow, it came back and
overestimated my audience. What they they've got a new writer and it's beauti-
really wanted was a 1940-opiate kind ful. Good script. This is from the cop's

-w

FILM f

T

-w-

-W

FOR T HOS E OF
you with a passion
for personal, chal-
lenging, dare-we-
say "offbeat" films, this will
not be the winter of your dis-
content. If the release late
last year of David Lynch's
Blue Velvet, Alex Cole's Sid
and Nancy and Oliver
Stone's Platoon signaled the
resurgence of the Hollywood
outsider, then February and
March's offerings represent
the apotheosis. Confirmed
New Yorker Arthur Penn
has come up with a master-
ful thriller, Dead of Winter
(early February), his most
interesting film since 1975's
underrated gem, Night
Moves. Also in February,
another New Yorker con-
tributes another interesting
release: Light of Day, direct-
ed by Paul Schrader. Itsis
very much a Schrader film
slow, talky, unsentimental,
an examination of choices
and motivation, with reli-
gious undertones. In this
case the choices involve a
brother'-and-sister team of
musicianswho are occasion-
ally estranged from their
parents and each other. In
their dramatic debuts Mi-
chael J. Fox and Joan Jett
are surprisingly compelling,
a ac thi nhr Gna

Jett and Fox: Compelling debuts

Hopper, who plays a nerve-
gas manufacturer for the
Nazis. Cox says the film has
"a lot of sexual tension but
absolutely no nudity or
swear words." If you can be-
lieve it, Dennis Hopper is
also in Tim Hunter's Riv-
er's Edge (late March), a
chilling portrait of teenage
nihilism, and Black Widow
(early February), in which
he plays a bit part in a seduc-
tive mystery thoroughly
dominated by two women:
Debra Winger, arguably our
best young actress, and The-
resa Russell, largely un-
known but sure to be noticed
after this film. The director
is Bob Rafelson, who gave
the world the Monkees and
Jack Nicholson his best part
in Five Easy Pieces. Finally,
in late March and April,
there will be somethng on
the light side-and some-
thing Dennis Hopper is not
in. The movie is Raising Ari-
zona. It's directed by the
Coen brothers (Blood Sim-
ple), and it is our early favor-
ite for comedy of the year.
Dennis Hopper, Bob Ra-
felson, Joel and Ethan
Coen-who are these guys,
anyway? And what is a Hol-
lywood outsider? To find
out, we assigned three inside
stories. Herewith, on the fol-
lowing pages, the state of the
artists
ones, Elvis Costello,
dent filmmaker Jim
ch, the Clash's Joe
mer-and Dennis
Heavenly Hutton

Mary steenburgen: Amost deadnWimte
Rowlands turns in another Grace J
Oscar-caliber performance. indepen
It is Schrader's most person- Jarmus
al film to date; not coinciden- Strumr
tally, it is also his most acces-
sible.
In March Robert Altman-
disciple Alan Rudolph
(Choose Me, Trouble in
Mind) continues his quirky
look at love's labor with
Made in Heaven, in which
Timothy Hutton and Kelly
McGillis play two souls who
meet in heaven and fall for
each other but who must
then strive to reunite when
they're reborn on earth. An
even more electric premise
is highlighted in Straight to
Hell, Briton Alex Cox's
next film, a New Wave spa-
ghetti Western shot in Spain
and featuring the likes of

Shady Russel

Spring 1987 7

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