Dennis Hopper was thirteen when he first sniffed gasoline and watched the clouds turn into clowns and goblins. There was little else to do in Dodge City, where he had been born and raised. Catch lightning bugs, fly his kite, burn newspapers, swim. Hopper was, by his own words, “desperate.” A sensitive child without the stimulation to keep his fevered imagination in check.
Hopper went to movies and watched Abbott and Costello and Errol Flynn. He got home and got high on gasoline fumes and became Abbott and Costello meets Errol Flynn, and wrecked his grandfather’s truck with a baseball bat. It was a hint of what was to come.
Signed to Warner Bros at eighteen, Hopper identified with Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, and James Dean, but found he was expected to conform to the studio’s whims. He was too full of himself, too high on being Brando, Dean and Clift to conform—“I’m a fucking genius, man,” he told anyone who listened. His fuck you attitude saw him picked on and bullied and by old time studio director Henry Hathaway, who had him black-balled from Hollywood.
Over the next few years, Hopper did little work. He picked-up a camera and channeled his talent iby documenting the social and cultural changes happening across America during the 1950s and 1960s. He became a “gallery bum”. Where others went to the beach, Hopper hung around art galleries looking for inspiration.
He met and became friends with the young artists whose works were exhibited—Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha—and he started to collect—but it wasn’t about the money.
“My idea of collecting is not going and buying bankable names, but buying people that I believe are really contributing something to my artistic life.”
This short film takes us inside the late actor’s home-studio, where he gives a quick tour around his collection of Modern Art works, from Julian Schnabel, Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Ed Ruscha.
Produced and directed by Kimberly M. Wang.