The Late Dennis Hopper on Nicholson, Newman, Dylan and Dean

He made Easy Rider, he went bonkers on booze and coke and married and divorced in the same week. To top it off he was also mates with some seriously cool people...
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He made Easy Rider, he went bonkers on booze and coke and married and divorced in the same week. To top it off he was also mates with some seriously cool people...

Jack Nicholson

Jack and I have been through a lot together. He's a real friend and a great actor. His drug intake used to be extraordinary. I could handle the drinking - I felt that I could control that - but he could happily smoke joint after joint, and did as much while we were making Easy Rider. The other thing that happened during Easy Rider was that we visited DH Lawrence's tomb, which was near my place in Taos, New Mexico, and dropped acid. The next morning, when we woke up, we found ourselves halfway up a tree. When you go through something like that together, it can't help but bring you closer.

Peter Fonda

Peter Fonda and I were never friends. We made a movie together, Easy Rider, and that's it. Fine producer that he was, he tried to get me fired from the picture! He also got the dates wrong for Mardi Gras which nearly threw the movie out of whack. I only had a week to put a crew together when what I really needed was a month. He's said all sorts of things about me over the years, calling me a fascist fuck and whatnot. I'd get more worked up about him but, you know... life's too short.

Kris Kristofferson

Kris has talked a lot about shooting my film The Last Movie in Peru, saying it was one of the toughest shoots he was ever involved with. Well, it was certainly tough for Kris because he broke his arm halfway through making the picture. He was wrangling a horse and it kicked and snapped his arm like a twig. I'd taken him to South America because I loved his music - he performed the whole score live on-set - but he asked to do a few stunts and do a spot of acting and wound up getting a little more than he bargained for. So for him, yeah, it wasn't a walk in the park. Was it hard for me? Sure, but I didn't wind up wearing a cast.

Crosby, Stills & Nash

The original idea was for Crosby, Stills  & Nash to score Easy Rider, but I had a falling out with Stephen Stills. We were driving back to my office in his limo and I said, "Stephen, this simply isn't going to work." He asked why and I shouted, "Because I've never been in a limo before and anyone who drives around town in a limo can't understand my movie! Fuck off! If I see you around here again, I'll fucking kill you!" That was how I made my movie.

Bob Dylan

In the end, I decided to pack the Easy Rider soundtrack with all the hits songs of the day. It was a pretty far out idea - no one had done it before. I thought it would be so cool if the movie ended with Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)". The problem was Dylan didn't like Easy Rider or the song so much. He thought the track was pretentious and he had a real problem with the end of my movie - "You can't end it like that! Peter should go back and blow those guys away." Eventually, he said I could use it as long as I didn't play it over the end credits - "Man, it's depressing enough as it is." Then he did something amazing. He got out a pen and paper and started to write - "The river flows, it flows to the sea, wherever that river flows, that's where I want to be. Flow river, flow." He then handed it over to me and said, "Give this to McGuinn, he'll know what to do with it." So Roger McGuinn from The Byrds added his magic to it and there it was: "The Ballad Of Easy Rider". I think Dylan could do anything he put his mind to. He's a really good actor - I think he's very good in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. Genius is such an overused work but he's the real deal.

To go from making Rebel Without A Cause and Giant with Dean to not being able to get a date in Hollywood, that was really depressing.

Sam Peckinpah

I worked on Sam's last movie, The Osterman Weekend, which was a trip because Sam and I had worked together right at the very beginning of our careers. Back in the 1950s, I starred in the pilot of The Rifleman, which was a western series Sam had written. He was an incredible guy. When we were making The Rifleman, he'd be on set every day, telling me how my character would behave, how he'd hold his gun, what he'd eat and drink. He knew his characters inside and out. He was a good guy to know back then because, before Steve McQueen came to town, he was the only person I could always go and smoke a joint with. Was he a spent force when he made The Osterman Weekend? Well, he wasn't very well during the shoot, but his mind was still very, very sharp. He was even trying to clean up his act - giving up the booze and the coke. He didn't drink a drop during the whole shoot, although I don't think he was too happy about that. Make no mistake, though, he was a great director and a real force of nature. Look at The Wild Bunch - it doesn't get much better than that.

James Dean

Working with Jimmy was incredible. The man had real dynamite - no one else has his power. He could literally do Hamlet standing on his head - I saw him do it once for a bet and it was breathtaking. After he died, I got fired from a movie because I had an argument with the director Henry Hathaway and I was blacklisted. To go from making Rebel Without A Cause and Giant with Dean to not being able to get a date in Hollywood, that was really depressing. Is it true Dean wanted to direct movies? Sure, he wanted to make a movie called The Actor which was about the pressures of being a movie star. He found acting for film very difficult. Because he gave so much of himself to his parts, he couldn't stand it when a director would interrupt him in mid-flow. It was because of that that he wanted to stop acting in films and be a director, but he died before any of this could happen. But we had seen the end of James Dean on screen even had he lived.

Orson Welles

I made a movie with Welles which was never released called The Other Side Of The Wind. I was editing The Last Movie in New Mexico when he called and asked me if I'd like to come to LA to shoot a scene. So he flew me to Hollywood and took me to his house, cooked me pasta and filmed me talking about movies and filmmaking all night - the character I was playing was a young director. It was fascinating, kind of like a one-night film school. He shot in a way that would allow him to tie in other footage easily - he had no money so was making the film a bit at a time. Orson knew his movies and he knew his food, too, although I think most people could figure both those things out for themselves.

Andy Warhol

I bought Warhol's first Campbell soup tin painting. It cost me all of $75. Warhol was one of the most original people I ever met. He could be boring and brilliant all at the same time. A decade after he died, I got to play his manager in the movie Basquiat. So there I was having conversations with David Bowie, who was playing Warhol, which were just like conversations I'd had with Andy. It was weird - well, maybe not so weird in the context of my life but it was definitely strange. Do I still have the picture? No, I lost that and a lot of other great stuff in a divorce. I'm still pissed off about that, actually.

Paul Newman

I met Newman making Cool Hand Luke. I had a small part in the picture playing a guy called Babalugats - I don't think I have a line in the whole picture. It was a great experience. We all stayed in our chains and our prison fatigues throughout shooting. We smelled terrible but we went out on the town dressed like that. I was there when Newman ate all the eggs. Of course, he was in agony once he was done, but we were all in awe of him. Like the guys in the film, we all took bets on whether he'd be able to do it. Paul Newman ate 50 boiled eggs in an afternoon. Fucking amazing what some guys will do for a buck.

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