"I was a nightmare. I finally just shorted out."
But, as Hopper told The Times, "I'm not usually in one of those movies that leaves you feeling good when you leave the theater."
That same year he appeared in "Blue Velvet," writer-director David Lynch's disturbing film in which Hopper played the mystery-substance-inhaling psychopathic killer Frank Booth, a character Time magazine critic Richard Corliss described as possibly "the vilest sadistic creep in movie history."
"When people ask what I was inhaling in the mask, I say it was [Method acting teacher] Lee Strasberg," Hopper later told the London Evening Standard.
As an actor, Hopper carved out his own particular niche as what one journalist called a "serial portrayer of weirdos," including the maniacal bomber in "Speed" and the eye-patch-wearing villain with the shaved head in "Waterworld."
Hopper, Rainer observed, "really gets inside the craziness" of such characters.
"He's able to do that because — and this is where the Method part probably comes in — he somehow taps into the craziness in himself," Rainer said.
After "Easy Rider," Hopper was dubbed "Hollywood's hottest director" by Life magazine. He went to Peru to direct "The Last Movie," in which he played a movie stuntman who remains in a remote mountain village after a Hollywood film company shoots a violent western whose production has a powerful effect on the villagers.
Released by Universal in 1971 after Hopper spent more than a year editing it at his home in Taos, N.M., "The Last Movie" won the Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival but was panned by most movie critics and quickly pulled from theaters.
"As a piece of film-making," summed up Charles Champlin, then The Times' movie critic, "it is inchoate, amateurish, self-indulgent, tedious, superficial, unfocused and a precious waste not only of money but, more importantly, of a significant and conspicuous opportunity."
It would be years before Hopper got another chance to direct, most notably the 1988 film "Colors."
But, as Biskind noted of the period after the high-profile failure of "The Last Movie," Hopper "did do some acting, and directors learned to work around the drugs."
Far more prolific as an actor since his mid-'80s career resurgence, Hopper continued to work steadily in films and television.
In 1991, he received an Emmy nomination as lead actor for his portrayal of a murderous Southern racist in the Showtime movie "Paris Trout."
He also showed up in commercials, including ones for Nike and for Ameriprise Financial in which the old Easy Rider told aging baby boomers that it was "time to redefine" retirement.
Hopper more recently played record producer Ben Cendars in the TV series "Crash."
He was born May 17, 1936, in Dodge City, Kan., and spent most of his childhood living on his grandparents' farm. His father served in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and his mother managed an outdoor swimming pool in Dodge City.
After the war, the family moved first to Kansas City, Mo., and then to San Diego County.