When you think of Dennis Hopper, you probably think one of two things. “Wow, what a great actor” or “Wow, what the hell happened?” Never before has such a well-respected actor left so many movie fans not only scratching their heads, but pulling their hair out. This freakin’ guy was in Cool Hand Luke, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet! So, in honor of a great actor who should maybe be a bit pickier about his roles, and in an effort to get Mr. Hopper back on the right track, here are his 10 biggest missteps.
10) An American Carol
By 2008 we had seen enough recent Dennis Hopper movies to know he’s not exactly producing top-notch material, but playing a gun-toting judge (named “The Judge”) in Hollywood’s right-leaning attack on leftist Hollywood? That surprised even us. But, hey, who wouldn’t want to work with Naked Gun and Airplane! writer and director David Zucker? What? He’s also behind all the Scary Movie movies? And Superhero Movie? Fail.
Hopper playing a washed-up hippy in 1990 being brought in by Keifer Sutherland’s straight-laced FBI-agent might sound more documentary than buddy comedy, but it also acts as a template for the not-at-all corny television masterpiece known as Dharma and Greg as you get to see the straight laced guy dealing with a “free spirit.” When things get crazy, Sutherland’s life goes topsy turvy and he really grows to understand Hopper’s off the grid lifestyle, meanwhile, Hopper experiences Sutherland’s life! However did they write such a masterpiece? Dude, you were Easy Rider (which gets a shout out in the trailer), and this is the best commentary on aging hippy-dom you can manage?
1990 kept Hopper pretty busy. In addition to hosting Saturday Night Live and starring in Flashback he also directed and starred in a movie with Jodie Foster, Dean Stockwell, Joe Pesci, John Turturro, Fred Ward and Vincent Price. And even with such a solid cast, it was still a mess. So displeased with the final product was Hopper that he took his name off the flick, laying the blame on this Alan Smithee guy. Not one to let dead dogs lie, Hopper went back and made an even longer version, dubbing it Backtrack. That had to be a joke though, right? Right?
7) Meet The Deedles
Meet the Deedles (1998) is about two stoners who get kicked out of school and sent to brainwashing center, but they sneak away into a park where the get mistaken for park rangers. Meanwhile a crazy man who turns out to be Ted Bundy has something to do with a bunch of prairie dogs who eat a marijuana crop and are stopping Old Faithful from blowing. Hopper, of course, plays the crazy guy who turns out to be one of the most serial killers in the world whose execution was faked. Aside from being offensive to the families of Bundy’s victims the movie also clumsily handles homosexual and mentally handicapped characters. We’re not Hollywood experts or anything, but you can read scripts before you sign on for movies right? Please answer in the comments.
6) Lured Innocence
Viewers expecting a Skinemax-like flick with Dennis Hopper balling Marley Shelton (yup, the lady doctor from Grindhouse) for 99 minutes will be sorely disappointed with Lured Innocence (also, you’re gross). Hopper absolutely brings the creepy and the crazy, but the problem with always playing creepy and crazy is that people start thinking you’re just that guy. It’s one thing to go all out and indulge your inner demons for a David Lynch jam like Blue Velvet, but going to that well again 13 years later for a movie that no one remembers? Maybe not the best idea. Unless it was all a ploy to get next to Shelton. In that case, we understand.
After nearly 15 years, we’re pretty sure all of the Waterworld jokes have been made, all the criticisms have been furiously typed out on keyboards in darkened basements and the movie has been screened for ironic viewings in more backyards than Rocky Horror. But, that doesn’t make the movie any better. It also doesn’t make Hopper’s performance any better. Once again channeling Booth, Hopper overperforms so hard he briefly lost an eye during filming. He plays Deacon, leader of the bad guy Smokers who not only use machines that produce smoke, but also smoke cigarettes. Deep. Anyway, in a long history of out-there performances and questionable career missteps, what sets Waterworld out for a guy like Hopper? Well, in addition to the epic failure the movie was critically and financially, Hopper also was nominated for and awarded the Worst Supporting Actor Razzie in 1995 beating out two dudes from Showgirls. Impressive.
4) Space Truckers
With all due respect to the mighty Deep Purple, the idea of trucks in space just sounds silly. Especially when, instead of piloting ships that look like the Millennium Falcon (a kind of space truck when you think about, okay, nevermind), these space truckers fly trucks. In space. Hopper plays the best pilot in the galaxy flanked by Stephen Dorf and Debi Mazar, trying to not get killed by robots. Or something. Even worse than Hopper’s decision to make a ridiculous B-movie, is that Stephen Dorf had to play second fiddle in an action movie to a 60-year-old man (it came out in 1996). That’s gotta sting.
3) Super Mario Bros.
Videogames are still waiting for their Iron Man or Dark Knight, a film adaptation that really makes people accept the source material and characters as epic enough to deserve feature film representation. While we’re sure that someone on the cast or crew of Super Mario Bros. (1995) felt this would be their chance to shine the spotlight on one of the most popular games of all time, getting the recognition that video games deserve, it was not meant to be. Probably because it’s a story about a fat Italian plumber (played by a British guy) fighting mushrooms in an another dimension. But forget all that. In this version, we get reptiles and lots of them. Oh awesome, that must mean that at least King Koopa (or Boswer depending on which hood you hail from) will look like his video game counterpart, right? Hey, why is Dennis Hopper dressed up like the germophobic love child of Eminem and Norman Osborn? Feeling light-headed? Yeah, same here. Please, do not go back and watch SMB thinking it will be a lot of fun to watch the campiness. It’s not worth it and you’ll hate yourself in the morning. Just go out and do some blow, you’ll get about the same results.
2) Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 isn’t necessarily a bad movie. Sure it’s mostly a rehash of the first towards the end, but you also get something very rare in a horror movie: a protagonist hunting down the bad guys. A well-armed protagonist, even. And who better to cast as an off-his-rocker policeman with a vendetta and a trunk full of weapons? Well, Dennis Hopper of course, especially 1986 Hopper. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea for Hopper to take the role. That seems like a backwards progression. Aren’t you supposed to start off in horror movies and then move on to big-time flicks? Someone get Lephrechan‘s Jennifer Aniston in contact with Hopper, maybe she can give him some career advice. Maybe he thought he was related to director Tobe Hooper.
1) The Crow: Wicked Prayer
If there’s one thing we want you to take away from this article, it’s not that Dennis Hopper is a bad actor. Quite the opposite, he sells even the worst parts with a gusto not found by many in Hollywood. The dude knows how to go for it. No, what we want you to remember is that The Crow: Wicked Prayer is a terrible, terrible movie. Don’t get sucked in because you liked the original or because you’re a David Boreanaz fan or you’re curious to see how Edward Furlong plays the part or you think Tara Reid might take her shirt off. It’s not worth it. But, if you are going to watch one of the worst films ever made, do yourself a favor and just skip right to Dennis Hopper’s scenes. He plays a satanic gangster pimp in the desert called El Nino who says absolute nonsense like “He’ll be your homey now and forever more!” and “Well, wicked-ass props to you Mr. O.G. and thanks for representing all the homeboys.” You know how it’s funny in The Wedding Singer when the old lady gets up and raps? This is nothing like that. It’s like your actual grandma or, say, Billy from frickin’ Easy Rider, saying “What up my homies?” You know, completely sad and offensive to everyone. How there isn’t a Nic Cage/Wicker Man-like montage of El Nino’s lines on YouTube, I’ll never know, but one of you should definitely start working on that.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.