Nineteen eighty-six was an eventful year for Dennis Hopper. After a fallow period, his Hollywood career was relaunched with the release of Blue Velvet, in which he played the mysterious gas-inhaling pimp and gangster Frank, with a sense of menace that seemed scarily real. When he was given the script, he told director David Lynch: “You have to let me play Frank because I am Frank.”
Dennis Hopper “The Lost Album”
Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens,London W1S 3ET.
Starts 26th June until 19th October 2014.
That same year, his photographs were published in book form for the first time in a volume entitled Out of the Sixties. It went relatively unnoticed amid the media attention garnered by Blue Velvet, but it was a significant event for its creator. In a short preface, Hopper wrote: “These are my photos. I started at 18 taking pictures, I stopped at 31. I am 50 now. These represent the years from 25-31… They were the only creative outlet I had for those years until Easy Rider. I never carried a camera again. Thanks, Jack, for the book.”
Easy Rider was the independent film, released in 1969, directed by and co-starring Hopper, that for a time changed the course of Hollywood film-making, signalling the beginning of what we now know as the alternative indie-film industry. Jack was Jack Woody, editor at Twelvetrees Press, who designed and published Out of the Sixties in a limited edition of 1,000 copies. For a long time, it was the only evidence of Hopper’s short, but prodigiously creative, career as a photographer That career began when, following a famous row with director Henry Hathaway on the set of From Hell to Texas in 1958, he became persona non grata in Hollywood.
“He figured he was the greatest young actor in the world,” Hathaway later recalled. “Well, he wasn’t. He was a headstrong kid, full of dope and bullshit. He was a self-styled enfant terrible and a pain in the ass.”