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Dennis Hopper dies; actor, director's 'Easy Rider' became a generational marker

Actor, director and artist Dennis Hopper died Saturday. Hopper had a long and tumultuous career that included such films as "Easy Rider," "Hoosiers," "Blue Velvet," and "Speed." His cancer was diagnosed last year.

"He said, 'Well, you have to do things, not show them. You have to take a drink from the glass, not act like you're drinking. Don't have any preconceived ideas. Approach something differently every time.' That was the beginning of a lot of problems for me with directors."

Mr. Hopper played Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor's son in "Giant." Then, while filming a western a few years later, Mr. Hopper got into a verbal battle with veteran director Henry Hathaway over how to play a scene. Mr. Hopper spoiled 87 takes on what should have been a simple line reading.

Hathaway threatened to drive Mr. Hopper out of Hollywood, and he largely succeeded, even if the actor did win small parts in "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) and, much to his surprise, Hathaway's "True Grit" (1969).

Mr. Hopper's marriages to socialite Brooke Hayward, actress Daria Halprin and dancer Katherine LaNasa ended in divorce. He was also married for eight days to Michelle Phillips of the singing group the Mamas and the Papas.

"Seven of those days were pretty good," he said. "The eighth day was the bad one."

In January, while in cancer treatment, he filed for divorce from his wife of 14 years, actress Victoria Duffy.

Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, a daughter from his third marriage, a son from his fourth marriage and a daughter from his fifth marriage.

Recently, Mr. Hopper was a star on the TV drama "Crash" on the Starz cable network and a commercial pitchman for the investment adviser Ameriprise Financial. He recorded his voice for the company Navtones, which specializes in celebrity voice downloads for GPS navigation systems. The company's Web site said his voice "makes every ride easy."

Critics have debated how well "Easy Rider" has aged. Pauline Kael called the film's dark tone and violent ending one of "sentimental paranoia" in an era when "it was cool to feel that you couldn't win, that everything was rigged and hopeless."

Mr. Hopper once told The Washington Post that Bob Dylan also felt the movie could have been improved. "Dylan didn't want us to die at the end," he said. "He was really upset about Wyatt and Billy being killed and suggested this outrageous ending. He said, 'You know the helicopter at the end? Why don't you have the helicopter swoop back down and shoot those rednecks in the truck?' Dylan wanted the good guys to win."

Special correspondent Alexander F. Remington contributed to this report.


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