While he went on to portray characters in movies with more box office success and critical acclaim, motorcyclists will forever remember him dressed in Native American-style buckskin pants and shirts and a bushman hat. He was Billy in the movie Easy Rider,
Today, Billy took his last ride. We are sad to have to say goodbye. While not official, it is assumed that he lost his long fight with prostate cancer.
It has been said that “death only closes a man’s reputation and determines it as good or bad” Dennis Hopper, 74 years old was, by those who knew him best, a Hollywood icon who dabbled in fame and lived the life of some, but not all, of the characters he portrayed.
Even before the movie Easy Rider made him famous, he appeared with James Dean in the movies Rebel without a Cause and Giant and with John Wayne in True Grit, and The Sons of Katie Elder.
Almost ten years later, Hopper and Fonda along with Terry Southern wrote the screenplay and Hopper starred and directed Easy Rider, the movie that defined the counter-culture generation. The film won an award at Cannes and later Hopper was nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay.
The movie also inspired the magazine Easyriders which enjoys continued newsstand success today and for a time was used on motorcycle shops and restaurants. The Easyrider bike shows and motorcycle rodeo tours continue to this day and attract tens of thousands of hardcore two wheel enthusiasts to events all across the USA.
In March of this year, a frail and bandaged Dennis Hopper appeared in Hollywood to see a star unveiled in front of Grumman’s Theater on the Walk of Fame in his honor.
Once ostracized by Hollywood because of drugs and temperament, Hopper never surrendered to the myth that his career was over, and went on to find steady work in an industry that is at times, unforgiving, nostalgic and just as hard to define as Dennis Hopper.
Hopper’s final work is a soon to be released 3D family film, Alpha and Omega, in which only his voice will be heard.
I imagine Dennis Hopper, in his final few hours on earth may have been thinking about a line he said as Billy in Easy Rider.
“Whew. Man, look, I gotta get out of here, man. Now we – we got things we want to do, man, like – I just – uh – I gotta get out of here”