When the iconic actor, director and artist Dennis Hopper died in 2010 at the age of 74, his family discovered that he was something of a pack rat.
“After he died, there were so many things we found — his film awards, his collection of movies he loved to watch and his personal collection of film posters that he had when he first started out in film, actual movie cameras and his director’s chair,” said his daughter Marin Hopper. “This stuff was an extension of his work.”
Hopper kept every script he received during one 25-year period, even if he didn’t do the movie.
“There are clippings from when he was in high school plays his mother saved,” noted Taylor Livingston, director of the Hopper Art Trust, which was created shortly after Hopper’s death to preserve his artistic career and legacy.
“We didn’t want to leave this stuff in storage,” Livingston said.
Enter the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Though Hopper wasn’t an alumnus, the trust was looking for “a place to put the memorabilia and a lot of the artwork,” said Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of the school. “We have some pretty remarkable collections here, so I think they felt he would be in good company and deeply appreciated here. It feels like the right place for his legacy.”
Items from the school’s Dennis Hopper Collection as well as photographs and art on loan from the trust will be on view Friday through Nov. 26 at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Gallery.
“Part of Being an Artist: The Dennis Hopper Collection — Selected Artwork and Ephemera,” curated by Livingston, includes a series of acclaimed black-and-white photographs Hopper took from 1961 to 1967 featuring Paul Newman, Mexican bullfighters and rock stars, among others, as well as a portrait of Hopper and his son, Henry, painted by artist Jack R. Smith shortly before the actor’s death.
The exhibition also highlights videos of art projects and films he appeared in, an autographed Dennis Hopper-model baseball bat, a leather motorcycle vest and albums of his press coverage spanning 40 years.
“I think the show is a marvelous look inside, at him being an actor, a director and someone involved in the visual arts,” Marin Hopper said. “I know my father would be so proud to have his legacy and his body of work as an actor and director to be celebrated and honored at USC.”
Hopper was called a visionary. Hopper was also a Renaissance man who never lost his wild, rebellious nature.
He was still a teenager when he made his film debut in James Dean’s 1955 disaffected youth classic, “Rebel Without a Cause,” and then costarred with him in “Giant” in 1956. Hopper turned Hollywood on its ear with his 1969 counterculture classic, “Easy Rider,” which helped to usher in a new generation of filmmakers in Hollywood. Hopper not only starred in the road movie with Peter Fonda but also directed and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated script with Fonda and Terry Southern.
Among his other memorable turns were as the American photojournalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War classic, “Apocalypse Now"; the terrifying psychopathic gangster Frank Booth in David Lynch’s surreal 1986 thriller, “Blue Velvet"; Shooter, an alcoholic with incredible basketball knowledge, in the 1986 film “Hoosiers,” for which he earned an Oscar nomination; and the mad bomber Howard Payne in 1994’s “Speed.”
Three of Hopper’s films will be screened during the exhibition. “Apocalypse Now” will play on opening night at the Eileen Norris Cinema, where Marin Hopper, director Henry Jaglom and others who knew and worked with Hopper will share their memories.
“Blue Velvet” is set for Oct. 15, followed by “The Last Movie,” the 1971 film that was his second directorial effort, on Nov. 14.
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‘Part of Being an Artist: The Dennis Hopper Collection — Selected Artwork and Ephemera’
Where: USC School of Cinematic Arts, Steven Spielberg Building, 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles
When: 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Ends Nov. 26.