They say celebrity deaths usually come in groups of three. Earlier this week, we said goodbye to Art Linkletter, and yesterday, Gary Coleman passed away. Today, it is actor-director Dennis Hopper, at 74, after a lengthy bout with cancer.
Hopper's talents, both as an actor and a filmmaker, were counter-balanced with a nearly career long struggle with substance abuse. Hopper directed 1969's counter-culture classic, "Easy Rider", in which he co-starred with Peter Fonda (who also produced) and future superstar Jack Nicholson. Because "Rider" was such a huge hit, Hopper was entrusted with "The Last Movie", which wasn't released until around 1972, due largely to Hopper's drug use. "Movie" was as opposite of "Rider" as you could get, a total failure that made Hopper persona non gratia in Hollywood for a few years, until a classic turn in 1979's "Apocalypse Now". However, Hopper didn't come all the way back until earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1986's "Hoosiers".
Today's generation might be more acquainted with Hopper from his role opposite Keanu Reeves in "Speed", as well as a stint as a shoe-sniffing referee in a series of commercials for Nike. More recently, Hopper ventured back into television, starring in the cable series, Crash, for the Starz network, and narrating the "Seven Ages of Rock" miniseries that airs frequently on VH1 Classic.
Would Hopper have been an even bigger star without the drugs? No one really knows for sure.
Rest in peace, Dennis.