Dennis Hopper ( May 17, 1936 – May 29, 2010)
By now, Dennis’ old interviews have been replayed on NPR, his stellar role in “Hoosiers” ran on cable last night, and all the intelligentsia and gutter trash who loved Hopper have already weighed in on the actor/filmmaker/artist’s career. But actually, in a weird coincidence, I started the LONG blog entry below several weeks ago, before he died of prostate cancer complications last weekend. I kept tweaking it before publishing, though, and got so obsessive that I went off the rails.
So without further ado, and with no more edits, here we go:
I had so much material I wanted to throw into my previous Francis Ford Coppola/Brat Pack blog posting, that I had to carry the non-S.E. Hinton material over to here.
[ Note: If you haven’t read my prior Hinton/Coppola/Brat Pack post yet, go here, for a special treat: corrections and comments by Mrs. S.E. Hinton herself , below my original article! I was floored, that she had even found me.
… and for even more on the entire Coppola Clan, I’ll drop another post soon. ]
For today we’ll play a little Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, or more accurately we will build a few Bacon chains (I’ll call them “clans”) using two other actors, just to make a point. I know I’m cheating, but still, we need to use Dennis Hopper or Robert Duvall, instead of Bacon. Here’s why:
1) Traditionally, the Bacon Game is played only with actors and actresses, not directors. So I couldn’t use my four preferred directors, Francis Ford Coppola, Ben Stiller, Wes Anderson, and Judd Apatow. Some Baconistas unofficially allow writers and directors to be used to build a chain, but not to start one… though today I will do neither.
2) For Duvall: he works frequently with Coppola, but also has done another fifty years worth of movies and tv besides, many years seen in three projects or more until the late-1980s. His first cinema role was as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and that is if we don’t count an uncredited, unconfirmed role in Paul Newman’s Somebody Up there Likes Me in 1956. He ranks #33 on the Top 1000 Hollywood Centers list (see * below for definition of a Center).
3) For Hopper: he has had a career almost as long as Duvall, starting in the Fifties and his work with the first Method actors, like James Dean. In fact, Hopper’s second film role was in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), followed immediately by a large role in the James Dean vehicle Giant (1956). Since then, Hopper’s cut a wide swath through both mainstream and underground film in every decade, in comedies, dramas, horror, art-house films, you name it. As a bonus, he’s even played the original King of the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, in a little-known movie The Night We Called It a Day, a based-on-fact film about Frank pissing off the Australians while on tour there.
* This surprised me, though: according to wikipedia and the Oracle of Bacon, Dennis is also the current Center of the Hollywood Universe, mathematically, instead of Kevin Bacon. In other words, he’s more easily linkable to more IMDB (Internet Movie Database) actors and actresses. Hopper’s Center Number rank is #1… for now. Kevin Bacon’s is actually #507.
* Click here for ALL of the Bacon Top 1000 Centers list, which is fascinating in itself. It has four Coppola faves in the top twenty: Hopper-1, Martin Sheen-9, DeNiro-18 , and Hackman-19. For example: Hopper acted with Center #33 Duvall in True Grit (1969), and also directed Colors (starring Duvall, plus Brat Pack Bonus Boy Sean Penn,). Hopper also did The Pickup Artist (1987) with two true Brat Pack stalwarts: Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey, Jr. (neither of whom ever worked directly with Coppola, though Downey’s Center Number is 191, and he has worked in some Ben Stiller [i.e. “Frat Pack”] movies).
Unfortunately, the Bacon Oracle calculator at U of Virginia is down this month for whatever reason, so you may need to spend a lot of time just wandering IMDB to see more about Dennis and Robert yourself.
As an added attraction, Hopper’s also a great crossover link to popular and rock music, by virtue of his collaborations and longstanding friendships with musicians like Neil Young and “Mama” Michelle Phillips (McKenzie’s mom, to whom Dennis was married –for a month– in 1970).
For the record: among the younger actors, Owen Wilson is the key crossover figure for exploration of all the most current, high-powered moviemaking clans. Because Wilson:
a) is part of Wes Anderson’s frequent stable of preferred actors and in fact got his start with Wes
b) is part of Ben Stiller’s stable as well
c) is included in the so-called Judd Apatow “Frat Pack” of collaborators, comprised of Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Steve Carell (wikipedia’s version of this list),
d) AND Wilson links pretty well to the rest of historical Hollywood. Owen ties back to a number of older dramatic actors, like Gene Hackman (Behind Enemy Lines, 2001) , Jon Voight ( Stiller’s Zoolander), and Robert DeNiro (Meet the Fockers). Plus Owen’s worked with a number of second-tier Brat Packers like Matthew Broderick (The Cable Guy) and Eric Stoltz (Anaconda, 1997).
In my opinion, other important first-tier Frat Pack members are Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jason Schwartzman, Jay Baruchel, Jon Heder, Michael Cera, Jon Favreau, John C. Reilly, and James Franco. Second-tier (playing lesser characters, but appearing in many Frat Films) would include Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, and Jason Bateman ( for Couples Retreat, Sarah Marshall, Vaughn’s The Break Up, plus others, some with Brat Pack actors also).
All the above Frat Boys have appeared in at least one of either Stiller’s, Apatow’s or Anderson’s trademark dramedies. Most are in two or more, and some, like the Wilsons, are often in both directors’ films.
For Judd Apatow, we consider material like Drillbit Taylor (with Owen), Anchorman (w/ Carell, Rudd, Ferrell and Vaughn), 40-Year Old Virgin (Carell, Rudd, & Rogen) and The Cable Guy (Stiller, Owen & Black). But don’t forget Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and the tv series Freaks and Geeks and The Ben Stiller Show (Apatow was a writer/producer).
For Anderson’s films, most notably we look at The Royal Tenenbaums, with Owen, Luke, Stiller… plus Coppola favorite Gene Hackman, and SNL maverick Bill Murray.
Or else look to The Darjeeling Limited, featuring two official Coppola-to-Frat crossover figures: writer/actor Jason Schwartzman (Francis’ nephew), and co-screenwriter Roman Coppola (Francis’ son). Note that Darjeeling also features unofficial Frat Boy Adrien Brody who has not worked on Apatow or Stiller projects but works sometimes with Anderson. Brody last worked with Wes and Schwartzman on Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009, and is the only Oscar-winner of the younger bunch (for The Pianist).
We could Frat-ernize the older Oscar-nominee Bill Murray, whose Center Number is #302, and who worked with Anderson on Mr. Fox, Tenenbaums, Steve Zissou (with Owen) and Rushmore (with Schwartzman),… not to mention with Frat Friend and former Tarantino girlfriend Sofia Coppola on Lost in Translation. But Bill’s bigger than the Frat Boys, thanks in part to his ties with Animal House’s earlier frat boys Harold Ramis, John Belushi, and (ironically) Kevin Bacon!
Robert Duvall gets a Frat Number of 1, having been in Four Christmases (2008) with Vince Vaughan. Meanwhile Ben Stiller and James Franco both have a Duvall # of 2. Duvall appeared in Godfather II with DeNiro , and DeNiro appeared with Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents (2000). For Franco, he’s been in City by the Sea with DeNiro, who was in GII with Duvall. If that isn’t enough, Franco was in In the Valley of Elah with Wayne Duvall, Robert’s cousin, which may actually give Franco a 1.5 Duvall number.
BTW, James Franco actually deserves to be numbered among the Frat Pack even more than Vince Vaughn. He’s been in three different Apatow projects, plus Carell’s Date Night (I think Vaughn only has three Frat films, officially).
Same goes for John C. Reilly, even moreso– he’s been in five Frat projects: Talladega Nights (2006), Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny (2006), Walk Hard (2007), Step Brothers (2008), and the upcoming Jonah Hill vehicle Cyrus (2010), due out this summer.
For Dennis Hopper, unfortunately, his Frat Number seems to be 2, as is his Bacon Number. No direct links to Bacon nor any Frat Pack actor, despite being Center #1. Unless we count Downey as a Frat Packer in addition to a Brat (dual citizenship?). For example, Hopper links to former SNL performer Chris Kattan in the upcoming The Last Film Festival, and Kattan links to Ferrell in Night at the Roxbury (or try Hopper–>Duvall–>Vaughn). So to get him a #1 with Owen, let’s lobby Apatow to cast Dennis and Owen in something next year. Dennis is 74, and not getting any younger. For the record, Owen Wilson currently has both a Hopper Number and a Duvall Number of 2.
Owen Wilson also did You, Me and Dupree with Matt Dillon, an honorary Brat Packer. And in case you need other connections between the Brats, Frats, Duvall, Hopper, Coppola, Stiller, Anderson and/or Apatow here are some semi-obscure ones:
1) Stiller with Brats Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald in Fresh Horses (1988). Plus Stiller in Hot Pursuit (1987) with younger Brat John Cusack (Center #186). Or Stiller-Black-Hader, all with Downey and Tom Cruise, in Tropic Thunder (2008).
2) John Hughes (yes, the Breakfast Club John Hughes) was a co-writer of Apatow & Owen Wilson’s Drillbit Taylor, under the pen name Edmund Dantes.
3) Owen is in Behind Enemy Lines with Coppola fave Gene Hackman, Francis’ lead in The Conversation (1974). Note also that The Conversation is Francis’ favorite personal film, and is currently being considered by Francis for his first-ever authorized remake!!!) .
The one director I’m sometimes having trouble placing in just one category is Ben Stiller. He’s a Younger Brat, who became a Frat, and yet he also writes, produces and directs. From his early tv work and movies (like Cable Guy, which he wrote and directed, while Apatow produced), we can surely include some Frat Packers like Owen and Jack Black. Then there are other actor/writers like David Cross, Bob Oedenkirk, and a few other comics in big Saturday Night Live, Apatow or Stiller movie projects that included the Fratties, most notably Jack Black again (Cross’ co-star four or more times already).
Then again, there’s also alot of crossover between these clans in and out of director Kevin Smith’s world, and (unfortunately) the Adam Sandler entourage as well. So who’s in or out, or on which list, starts getting fuzzy when we include Stiller in the conversation.
As I’ve said, Stiller, Apatow and Anderson have a “troupe” of a dozen or so actors, actresses, writers, cinematographers and whatnot with whom they like to work repeatedly. in this they are emulating the “film-school generation” of directors –Scorcese, Spielberg, Robert Altman, Woody Allen, Coppola and their even older heroes (i.e. Ingmar Bergman, Fellini, Frank Capra). So that’s what got me to thinking about them like clans, in the old Scottish sense of the word… though hopefully they won’t go to war with each other.
* * *
I have plenty more cool little factoids to complete the clan web, but they’re all over the map and disorganized. So I’ll just list them in shorthand for those who wish to read on…
The Conversation – dir. by Coppola, stars Hackman, Duvall, John Cazale (also in Godfather and Dog Day Afternoon with Al Pacino). Trivia bit: Harrison Ford has a small role in The Convo, long before Star Wars!
Bacon, Cruise, Demi, Nicholson: were all in A Few Good Men —> Nicholson and Hopper in Easy Rider together.
Tom Skerritt gives Coppola an Altman number of 2, as Francis was a bit actor in War Hunt ( 1962 ) with MASH’s Skerritt… and War Hunt also had Sydney Pollack, and Robert Redford, which gets us to two other important clans of actors/directors.
Nic Cage – nephew of Coppola: he was used by his uncle Francis in Rumble Fish and Peggy Sue Got Married, and also by Scorcese in Bringing Out the Dead. He’s yet to work with Apatow, Anderson or Stiller, though his co-star in this July’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice is Jay Baruchel, a frequent Frat Boy content to play good supporting roles instead of leads (similar to SNL’s Bill Hader).
Cage also cast James Franco in the only directing project Cage has ever helmed, 2002’s Sonny. And Nic worked with 2nd-tier Brat Girls Sarah-Jessica Parker in Honyemoon in Vegas (1992) and Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas (1998).
Brat Pack B-lister: Jeremy Piven (of the “Cusack Clan”, along with Tim Robbins and Aidan Quinn) was with Vaughn and Ferrell in Old School.
Vaughn was with the Scorcese Clan’s Harvey Keitel, and Tarantino Clan’s Travolta and Uma, in Be Cool. Tarantino also dated Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, for several years.
2nd-Tier Brat Girl Virginia Madsen: see Class from 1983, w/ Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, plus other B-list Brats like the Cusack kids, Casey Sziemascko, and Alan Ruck. Also, Ginny’s brother Michael Madsen is clearly a cornerstone of the Tarantino Clan.
John C Reilly is in Scorcese’s Gangs of New York with DiCaprio, the Anti-Frat Boy .
Carell, Franco, & Femme Frattie Mila Kunis are in Date Night. Kunis co-starred with Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (produced by Apatow, also featuring Jonah Hill, Hader, and Rudd).
Carell, Jim Carrey (Cable Guy), Rogen, Jonah Hill, and some Femme Fratties are all in Horton Hears a Who (2008).
Stiller, Black and Femme Frattie Amy Poehler are in Barry Levinson’s Envy (including the Frat Pack’s honorary godfather, Christopher Walken). Poehler, Heder and Ferrell were in the Apatow-produced Blades of Glory. Poehler and Rudd were together in pre-Frat Wet Hot American Summer (2001). Rudd was in Stiller’s Night at the Museum (2006).
Stiller, Owen, Ferrell, and Vaughn in Zoolander, which also featured Andrew Wilson (older brother of Owen & Luke) whom Anderson works w/ occasionally. Zoolander is also getting a sequel soon, so we’ll likely see those Stiller and Owen clans expand.
Breakfast of Champions– Owen, with Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte ( from Stiller’s Tropic Thunder)
Tropic Thunder also featured Brat-To-Frat Crossover Star Robert Downey, Jr. along with Frat stalwarts Black, Stiller, Baruchel, and Hader). For more Brat-To-Frat points, Tom Crusie practically steals the movie in his few short scenes. And Frat Friends are all over this movie, including Jason Bateman, Jon Voigt, Tobey “Spidey” McGuire (Franco’s arch-enemy), and British Frat Cousin Steve Coogan.
The Big Bounce (2004) – Owen & Charlie Sheen
Finally, some “Little Sisters” of the Frat Pack: Carla Gugino ( w/ Stiller in Night at the Museum, Downey and Adrien Brody in The Singing Detective (2003), works a lot with Tarantino, plus w/ several Brats, like Nic Cage in Snake Eyes), Reese Witherspoon (w/ Vaughn in 4 Christmases, Rogen & Rudd in Monsters Vs. Aliens), Winona Ryder (Stiller’s Reality Bites, also one-time fiance’ of Downey, Jr.), Kirsten Dunst (Dick with Ferrell, Be Kind, Rewind with Black, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette ), Elizabeth Banks (w/ Rogen, Carell, Rudd in Virgin, in Fred Claus with Vaughn), Tina Fey (Date Night, the upcoming animated Megamind w/ Ferrell and Jonah Hill), SNL’s Kristen Wiig (Sarah Marshall, Date Night, animated Despicable Me with Carell, Segel, and How to Train Your Dragon with Baruchel, Jonah Hill), the aforementioned Mila Kunis, the aforementioned Poehler (and hubby Will Arnett), Ellen Page (with Cera in Juno, w/ Wiig in Drew Barrymore’s Whip It!), Leslie Mann (Apatow’s wife, in almost all his directing projects), Christine Taylor (Stiller’s wife), Isla Fisher (Vaughn and Owen’s Wedding Crashers, Hot Rod [w/ Hader, produced by Ferrell], and Carell’s Horton). There are likely a half-dozen others I can’t think of. So in the interests of feminizing the Frat Pack in the way that the Brats were very co-ed, try to find a few Femme Fratties of your own to add.
Now that I have droned on and thouroughly confused both my readers and myself, time to move on. See you at the next Ironman sequel, in which Robert Downey Jr. goes to Hades and retrieves John Cazale, Bruno Kirby and Woodrow Wilson for a madcap roadtrip across four continents, in search of the cannoli of destiny!