"One through nine, no maybes, no supposes, no fractions."
Dennis Hopper was one of the great special effects in the modern era; our chemical man in the movies. But his loss reminds us that special effects continue to evolve as an honest performer’s most bitter competition – only occasionally inspiring them, and always at a price. And yet, like the best bare-knucklers, Hopper kept getting up and kept throwing punches even as the explosions got bigger, the colors coarser, and the fakery… well, shit – fakier. But what did it cost him, and what is it costing us?
Dennis Hopper was as internally combustible as the ‘Captain America’ and ‘Billy’ bikes in Easy Rider; he was every bit the pyrotechnical psychedelic to compliment the napalm plumage on the Nung beachhead and the light show over the Do Lung bridge in Apocalypse Now; he mingled among the vapors of his own invention in Blue Velvet; and was the most sopping wet of dry drunks in Hoosiers.
But whether he was any more human than the strictly chemical, gaseous, and now pixelist creations concocted by the whiz kids at Lightstorm, ILM and WETA is hard to say. In even his most memorable performances, Hopper was never a husband, never a father, never a best friend – certainly not a functional one. He was always more Richard Widmark than James Cagney. It’s just that Widmark’s era wouldn’t have known what to do with him. They didn’t have squibs and blood bags, animatronics, motion control or CGI.
They hadn’t even heard of napalm yet.
But we have. And until yesterday, we had Dennis Hopper to stand up in the jungle for us and give as good as he got.
Who will do it now?
Posted by Såladin and Jon Owen.
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What many current Hollywood directors will be watching in hell.
It’s subtle, but just as though you’ve held your breath, the tension mounts with every passing second in these heroically long takes.
Posted by Jon Owen. Special thanks to the steely eyed insights of Jim Emerson.
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