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Notionally telling the story of an Indian community corrupted by an American film company, the film was more famous for the tales of drugs, violence and orgies that emerged from the remote Peruvian village in which it was set.
Intended to be Hopper’s grand indictment of Hollywood, it attracted scathing reviews and, though winning the prize at the Venice Film Festival, was widely deemed to be pretentious nonsense.
Capable only of playing drug-crazed individuals, such as his babbling journalist in Apocalypse Now (1979), he had entered a cycle of destruction and amnesia .
While in Mexico to film Jungle Fever, the hallucinogenics overcame him and he was found naked in the street trying to raise an army for the Third World War.
Made for less than 0,000 and taking more than million at the box office, Hopper’s parable of the American dream won Best Film at Cannes and, though criticised for “turning incoherence into sensitivity”, it became a cinematic sensation, making him — briefly — the most bankable director in Hollywood.
Although he could snarl and scare with the best, the typecasting — though lucrative — was a tame conclusion to a career that had started with Shakespeare and roles opposite James Dean.
Easy Rider was a searing indictment of a conformity to which Dennis Hopper heroically refused to bow.
But he was the victim of his own towering ambition to be more than an actor — to be an artist, director, iconoclast and all-embracing spirit of the 1960s.
He re-emerged as an alcoholic father in Coppola’s Rumblefish (1983), as an abusive father in Out of the Blue (1984) — an eloquent film which he directed with uncharacteristic restraint — and as an alcoholic basketball star in Hoosiers (1986).
If there was the whiff of typecasting it was as nothing compared to the roles he was offered after his portrayal of Frank Booth in David Lynch’s cult classic Blue Velvet (1986), arguably the most terrifyingly intense portrayal of a drug-crazed psychotic in cinematic history.