Dennis Hopper: 5 Things You Didn't Know

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Dennis Hopper: 5 Things You Didn't Know
Dennis Hopper: 5 Things You Didn't Know

Although he had some 200 acting credits, Dennis Hopper was best-known for playing roles that involved drugs: the hippie biker in Easy Rider (which he also directed), the drug-crazed journalist in Apocalypse Now a decade later, and the sadistic huffer in David Lynch's Blue Velvet.

1- Dennis Hopper’s dad was a World War II spy

The first thing you didn't know about Dennis Hopper is that his dad was a


and his mom, an embittered champion athlete.

Dennis Hopper's father, Jay, worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the well-known precursor to the CIA, in China, India and parts of Southeast Asia during the war. Later, while the family lived in San Diego, Jay Hopper went to work for the United States Postal Service. His mother, Marjorie, meanwhile, was a lifeguard instructor.

When the family lived in Kansas, Marjorie was the state backstroke champion. According to Andrew Billen, interviewing Hopper in 2001 for

The Evening Standard

, she was supposed to go to Hitler's Berlin in 1936 to swim in the Summer Olympics. Her pregnancy with Dennis prevented it, something she never let her son forget. "She made me miserable in my life at home so I ran away the first time when I was 13," said Hopper. "When I graduated from high school at 18, I went immediately to Los Angeles. I did not talk to her for years after that."

2- Dennis Hopper was declared clinically insane

As mentioned in the intro, Hopper's most iconic roles were drug-related, and given his own penchant for alcohol, weed and cocaine, it should come as no surprise that, while filming a movie in Mexico called

Euer Weg führt durch die Hölle

(released as

Jungle Fever

in West Germany), Hopper finally lost it. According to various sources, he raced into the jungle, masturbated on a tree, was arrested by Mexican police, got fired from the film, and on the flight home he tried to make his way out onto the wing. Ultimately, he was diagnosed as clinically insane, and went into rehab.

3- Dennis Hopper was voted “most likely to succeed” in high school

Another thing you didn't know about Dennis Hopper is that his fellow pupils thought highly of him, and in 1954 tapped him as most likely to succeed.

Hopper graduated from Helix High School, located in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, California, a school known these days more for its athletic alumni, which includes NFL players Reggie Bush and Alex Smith as well as NBA legend Bill Walton.

4- Dennis Hopper’s acting idol was James Dean

Hopper's acting resume is astonishingly long, featuring plenty of highs and lows, but two of his earliest credits are

Rebel Without a Cause



, during which time Hopper became "an acolyte of

James Dean

and a believer in his intense approach to performance," according to


's Keith Phipps. During a 1983 interview with John Gallagher, Hopper said that he and Dean shared a reason for wanting to become actors; that reason was a "love/hate relationship" with one's parents, a desire to prove something to them, even if, as was the case with Dean, his mother was dead.

5- Dennis Hopper’s lineage traces back to Daniel Boone

The last thing you didn't know about

Dennis Hopper

is that his iconic Americanism was more than simply skin deep. After his family moved to San Diego, Hopper's embittered mother became the president of a local genealogical society, and in 1994 Hopper told

The New York Times

that she had traced the family as far back as the early 18th century. Specifically, she traced the family back to Sarah Boone, one of about 10 siblings of the


pioneer and legendary folk hero Daniel Boone, and great-great-great-grandmother to the recently departed 21st century maverick artist himself, Dennis Hopper.

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