Hopper was long a symbol of American counterculture, cemented by iconic roles in Blue Velvet, Apocalypse Now, and Easy Rider, which he also directed and co-wrote. He began his career in the 1950s in bit parts of classic films such as Rebel Without A Cause, Giant, and Gunfight at the OK Corral. He then moved to New York City in 1959 to study under Lee Strasburg at the Actors Institute. Known as a volatile and often unpredictable actor on film sets, Hopper was cast in True Grit and Cool Hand Luke before collaborating with other young pariahs and wrote, directed, and starred in the landmark Easy Rider in 1969. The Oscar-nominated film (for Screenplay, which Hopper co-wrote with Terry Southern and Peter Fonda) would define Hopper’s film career and public persona, as its electric avant-garde aesthetic and themes of independence of body and mind struck a chord with the emerging counterculture.
Hopper continued to be a unique presence in American cinema, acting in such films as Apocalypse Now, Rumble Fish, Blue Velvet, Hoosiers (for which he received an Oscar nomination), True Romance, Speed, Waterworld, EDtv, and Jesus’ Son. As a director, Hopper helmed The Last Movie, Out of the Blue, and Colors. On television, he was featured on the first season of 24 and more recently on the series Crash. In addition to his work in front of the camera, Hopper was a respected photographer, painter, and sculptor, with works recently at MOCA currated by Julian Schnabel.
Hopper is survived by four grown children and two grandchildren.