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Video: Actor who played ‘bad boy’ roles dies

  1. Transcript of: Actor who played ‘bad boy’ roles dies

    JENNA WOLFE, co-host: Dennis Hopper was a lot of things in Hollywood -- an actor, a director, even an art collector -- but most of all he was known as Hollywood 's bad boy , a character he spent his life perfecting. On Saturday Dennis Hopper died at the age of 74 after a long battle with prostate cancer. NBC 's Lee Cowan looks back at his remarkable and at times controversial career.

    LEE COWAN reporting: He was a motorcycle-riding, pot-smoking hero of the counterculture, compliments all to Dennis Hopper , whose life was anything but an easy ride. It was that iconic film that rocketed Hopper to stardom, firmly entrenching him in the role of social outcast...

    COWAN: ...whether in the jungles of Vietnam or the freeways of Los Angeles .

    Mr. PETER BISKIND (Author): Hollywood always admired its bad boys . You know, whether it's Dennis Hopper or Jack Nicholson or Robert Evans . And I think he certainly falls into that category.

    COWAN: Hopper 's hero was another bad boy , James Dean .

    COWAN: He appeared with Dean twice, in " Rebel Without a Cause " and "Giant."

    COWAN: So while Dean was brooding, Hopper was brass and defiant, a trait that landed him his many roles as it lost him.

    Mr. PETER BART (Daily Variety): He was always just a brilliant, creative guy who tended to be his own worst enemy. I think that's the key to Dennis .

    COWAN: Born in 1936 in Kansas , a farm boy , he saw his first movie at age five. He was creative early with art and photography soon becoming passions. But Hopper 's personal life was painted with torment. Marriage after marriage, and then there were the drugs.

    Mr. DENNIS HOPPER: Alcohol and drugs caused me to hit bottom. I went -- I went insane, hearing voices, some classic stuff.

    Mr. BISKIND: He was essentially out of control, and it created a lot of problems for himself.

    COWAN: It earned him a reputation for being stubborn and uncooperative, and yet his performances rarely disappointed.

    COWAN: He was nominated twice for an Oscar , but it wasn't until this March that Hopper finally got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame , one of this last public appearances.

    Mr. HOPPER: This has been my home and my schooling, and I love all of you.

    Offscreen Voice: Love you back.

    Mr. HOPPER: And...

    COWAN: He lived and died in two worlds, as much a pariah as a wonder boy , as much as a genius as a madman, all the makings of the true Hollywood cult figure. Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles .

Photos: Dennis Hopper

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  1. Classic teen angst

    Dennis Hopper's film career has been long and varied. He admired legendary star James Dean immensely, starring with Dean in two films, "Giant" and "Rebel Without a Cause." He's shown here in "Rebel" in 1955 with Dean and Natalie Wood. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Born to be wild

    In 1969, Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda starred in the now classic "Easy Rider," a film that was plagued by personal woes for director and star Hopper. His first marriage broke up during the making of the film, and he fell into substance abuse. Hopper and Fonda also reportedly did not get along. (Columbia Tristar via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Smell of napalm in the morning

    Hopper played a manic Vietnam War photographer in 1979's "Apocalypse Now," and many fans felt this character came the closest to Hopper's own personality. (United Artists via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Bluer than blue

    In 1986's creepy "Blue Velvet," Hopper, shown with co-star Kyle MacLachlan, revived his acting career with his portrayal of sadomasochistic Frank Booth. Hopper reportedly begged director David Lynch to let him play the role, saying "I am Frank Booth." (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Hoosier hoops

    Hopper, shown with co-star Gene Hackman, received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role in 1986's "Hoosiers." (Orion via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Speed' demon

    Hopper and Sandra Bullock, along with Keanu Reeves, starred in 1994's blockbuster "Speed." (20th Century Fox Film Corp.) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Keep your powder dry

    Hopper played one-eyed villain Deacon in 1995's "Waterworld," in which global warming has melted the ice caps and dry land is only a dream to most humans. (Universal Pictures via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Art of the film

    Hopper played art dealer Bruno Bischofberger in 1996's "Basquiat," with Jeffrey Wright as the postmodern artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie as Andy Warhol and Gary Oldman as a character based on the film's director, Julian Schnabel. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Biblical basis

    Hopper and Elizabeth Hurley starred in the biblically based TV movie "Samson and Delilah" in 1996. Actor Eric Thal plays Samson, and Hopper was the general who convinces Hurley's Delilah to betray Samson, leading to his death. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. An artist's eye

    Hopper poses in front of one of his artworks in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2001. He is a prolific photographer, painter and sculptor, and references to his movie work often find their way into his art. (Cor Mulder / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Braaaaains!

    Hopper poses for a portrait at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival while promoting the film "Land of the Dead." The zombie flick was the fourth of George A. Romero's zombie series and features Hopper playing a man who rules the fortress-like city of Philadelphia after zombies have multiplied to threaten humanity. (Carlo Allegri / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'American' way

    Hopper also starred in 2008's "An American Carol," a conservative parody of the work of liberal filmmaker Michael Moore. (Vivendi Universal Entertainment) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Behind the camera

    An exhibition of Hopper's photographs was held in 2009 at a Miami Beach art museum. (Juan Castro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. In profile

    Hopper attends the 2009 National Arts Awards presented by Americans for the Arts on Monday, Oct. 5, 2009 in New York. (Evan Agostini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A star for a star

    A frail Hopper, terminally ill with prostate cancer, poses with his family after having been honored with the 2,403rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 26, 2010. His 7-year-old daughter, Galen, hugs her daddy, whose doctor approved his appearance at the event, saying it was a positive experience. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'Easy Riders" reunite

    Jack Nicholson poses with Hopper following Hopper's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony on Friday, March 27, 2010. Other stars in attendance were Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch and Dwight Yoakam. Hopper said the bandages near his eye were the result of a fall outside his home the day before the event. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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