Dennis Hopper, 74, died Saturday at his Venice home, surrounded by family and friends. The actor had been battling prostate cancer.
Life was rarely an easy ride for the veteran actor. Of course, there were some highs along the way for the actor and filmmaker. As buckskin-draped Billy and star-spangled Wyatt, he and Peter Fonda became hippie-era icons as stoner cowboys in search of America atop heavy-metal steeds in 1969's Easy Rider. The road-trip odyssey directed by Hopper, produced by Fonda and co-written by both was an Oscar-nominated classic of its kind, an independent production that cost less than $400,000 and sold uptight Hollywood on the benefits of exploiting youth culture and a new generation of filmmakers.
Even today, the shot of the two long-haired drifters astride their customized low-riding motorcycles is as identifiable as faces on Mount Rushmore.
But ever since a teenaged Hopper appeared in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause opposite mentor James Dean— who would die in a car crash at age 24 before their second film together, 1956's Giant, was even released — his journey often was a rough one, marked by self-destructive drama and blurred by excessive drugs and alcohol.
The prolific, influential yet reckless actor, who eventually pulled himself together to become an invaluable, oft-villainous screen presence in the second half of his career, died Saturday after battling prostate cancer