DENNIS HOPPER’S “THE LAST MOVIE” | THE FILM THAT BURIED A VISIONARY

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Dennis Hopper and wife Daria Halprin at the Jack Tar Hotel San Francisco.

Dennis Hopper and wife Daria Halprin at the Jack Tar Hotel, San Francisco.

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From The Village Voice–

The Last Movie was actually to be Hopper’s first. Inspiration hit him in Durango, Mexico, during the making of the John Wayne western The Sons of Katie Elder— “I thought, my God, what’s going to happen when the movie leaves and the natives are left living in these Western sets?” Hopper hoped to make The Last Movie in 1966 but the project fell through when music producer Phil Spector withdrew financial support; his opportunity came in the wake of Easy Rider. Universal gave Hopper $850,000 and total autonomy (including final cut), so long as he stayed within budget.

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 American actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his film "The last Movie"  --1971.

American actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his film "The last Movie", 1971. -- Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

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Given Easy Rider‘s epochal success, The Last Movie was the most eagerly awaited picture of 1971. After winning an award at the Venice Film Festival, Hopper’s opus opened in New York and broke the single-day box office record at the RKO 59th Street theater, site of Easy Rider‘s triumphant engagement. But unlike Hopper’s first film, The Last Movie was attacked and ridiculed by virtually every reviewer in America and was withdrawn by its distributor within two weeks. Although it achieved a negative notoriety unsurpassed until Heaven’s Gate,The Last Movie was not a financial boondoggle. Hopper’s sin wasn’t wasting money—it was something far worse. The Last Movie is an act of visionary aggression that desecrates Hollywood’s universal church.

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American actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his movie, 1971.  -- Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

American actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his film "The Last Movie", 1971. -- Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

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The Last Movie made the name “Dennis Hopper” marquee death. Finished in late 1971, Kid Blue—an amiable comic western with Hopper as an aging outlaw attempting to go straight—was shelved for over a year. After a New York opening was canceled, the movie was included in the New York Film Festival. This honor proved the kiss of death. Kid Blue‘s ensuing commercial run lasted four days.

All this was a major setback for the rebellious visionary– and it appeared the Dennis Hopper’s career was all but over…

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Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper, definitely burning it at both ends.

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Dennis Hopper

Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper & Michelle Phillips. Phillips and Hopper were married briefly (all of eight days), and she appears in The Last Movie. She also dated Jack Nicholson, among other stars of that time.

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Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper at an Academy Awards after party in Los Angeles, California, April 1970. Singer Michelle Phillips stands in the foreground. –Photo by Max Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images

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Owen Wilson channeling Dennis Hopper for his Ei Cash character.

Owen Wilson channeling Dennis Hopper for his Ei Cash Character.

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The fashion influence of Dennis Hopper during this era can definitely be felt in Owen Wilson’s “Eli Cash” character– from Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

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Owen Wilson Eli Casheli cash

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8 thoughts on “DENNIS HOPPER’S “THE LAST MOVIE” | THE FILM THAT BURIED A VISIONARY

  1. Wait, what happened after that? Don’t make me go to IMDB and piece it together! Lots of space between this movie and “Hoosiers”!

  2. The vulnerable, whiskey fueled outsider that Hopper portrayed in Hoosiers seemed to fit him particularly well.

  3. Let’s hope THE LAST MOVIE and AMERICAN DREAMER get Criterion-level DVD restorations and reissues, with Mr. Hopper’s active involvement,
    sometime in our lifetimes!

  4. Pingback: A JAMES DEAN TRUE LIFE LESSON | DON’T ACT IT, DON’T SHOW IT, JUST DO IT « The Selvedge Yard

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