Dennis Hopper book on the way

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Actor, director, artist and art collector Dennis Hopper is to be the subject of an upcoming biography. Tom Folsom will write “Hopper: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” with, Publishers Marketplace reports, “the actor’s knowledge.” Hopper, who will turn 74 on Monday, has been struggling with prostate cancer, and earlier this year was too weak to give a deposition in his divorce case.

The subtitle is lifted directly from Hunter S. Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Like Thompson, Hopper was a straight arrow who fell into -- and helped shape -- a ‘60s subculture fueled by drugs, idealism and a healthy disrespect for authority.


Hopper appeared in small roles in major films in the 1950s -- “Rebel Without A Cause,” “Giant” -- and appeared on many television shows before writing and directing 1969’s “Easy Rider.” “What the hell is wrong with freedom?” his character Billy asked. “That’s what it’s all about.” The movie, a landmark of the counterculture, also begat independent film in Hollywood. There were drugs, a downfall and eventually a hard-fought Hollywood return.

Along the way, Hopper shot photos, painted and, when he had money, collected art. He’s published several books of photographs. And when Jeffrey Deitch takes over as director of MOCA next month, his first show will be a survey of works by Dennis Hopper, created by Julian Schnabel.

But all these accomplishments may not be as much fun to write about as his failures. He’s told interviewers of a champagne bath he and James Dean were going to take with Natalie Wood (she got in first, and they had to rush her to the emergency room); he was married to Michelle Phillips for just five days. His onscreen antics in “Apocalypse Now” seem a blur of drugged-out insanity. Folsom, who has written about the underworld and drugs, may be able to get at some of that savage journey -- and, hopefully, Hopper’s return back to the American dream.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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