Goodbye, Man

Dennis Hopper is dead.  Best known for his role as Billy, the leather-fringed drug-added biker in Easy Rider — who seemingly said “man” after every phrase — he was an actor with a knack for creating highly memorable, out-of-the-mainstream characters.

Hopper was excellent as the photographer in Apocalypse Now, as the sympathetic alcoholic basketball-obsessed assistant coach in Hoosiers, as the mad bomber in Speed, and as Kevin Costner’s one-eyed nemesis in Waterworld.  He never seemed to play an average guy with a desk job, a mortgage, and a wife and kids.

To my mind, Hopper’s greatest role was as the skin-crawlingly creepy nutbag, Frank Booth, in Blue Velvet.  Hyper-violent, appallingly obscene, sadistic, deeply troubled, constantly sucking on his mask of drug vapors and calling for someone to play the “Candy-Colored Clown they call the Sandman,” Hopper was riveting and totally believable every instant he was on screen.  His magnetic and utterly disturbed character was a big reason why Blue Velvet gets my vote for the most suspenseful, terrifying movie of the past 30 years.

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