Friday, July 19

Hopper’s passions flow wild in film


Friday, April 5, 1996

By Dina Gachman

Daily Bruin Contributor

It’s not easy being typecast as the villain or the tough guy in
films. At least not for Dennis Hopper.

"It seems like all I get are the heavies ­ the bad guys,"
he says. "Most of them are pretty badly written, so I end up
improvising a lot."

Hopper’s latest role in the Bruno Barreto film "Carried Away,"
which is adapted from the Jim Harrison novel "Farmer," is a
departure from these "heavies." He plays Joseph Svenden, a Texas
school teacher and farmer whose banal existence is disrupted by an
affair with a 17-year-old student named Catherine, played by Amy
Locane ("Blue Sky," "School Ties"). The liaison awakens Joseph’s
passions, but his long-term relationship with a woman named
Rosealee (Amy Irving) becomes jeopardized.

Portraying Joseph is a welcome change for Hopper, who began his
film career at the age of 18 in the classic "Rebel Without a
Cause." He went on to star in such memorable films as "Easy Rider,"
which also marked his directorial debut, "Apocalypse Now," "Rumble
Fish," "Blue Velvet" and "True Romance," to name a few.

The actor easily identifies with his character in "Carried
Away," who he calls "Gentle Joseph." When asked to describe this
character, Hopper becomes pensive before he begins his
explanation.

"There’s just a texture and originality to the character that’s
really quite wonderful," he says. "I love the fact that he smokes a
pipe and (uses a) cane, and these are things that I gave to him.
The way he cares for his mother. I think there’s some really
admirable qualities to Joseph."

In the film, these qualities seem to fade when Joseph, who is in
his 60s, is seduced by the beautiful, troubled Catherine. "Carried
Away" is in many ways a study in realism. Human desires and
failings are not judged on a grand scale that categorizes them as
bad or good, but are for what they are ­ natural parts of
humanity. Hopper refuses to view his character as immoral ­ as
he would be viewed in a more cliched film.

"I just think that he’s never had any real excitement in his
life," he explains. "The only excitement he ever had was reading
books. This (affair) is like a romance novel come true to him. It’s
like his one moment of glory."

Another aspect of "Carried Away" which impresses Hopper is the
movie’s lack of gratuitous violence.

"What I loved about the story was nobody gets killed," he says.
"It looks like there’s gonna be the kind of violence we’re used to
when lust takes over and people have to die because of some sinful
sexual encounter, (but there isn’t)."

Hopper’s life seems to be far removed from that of Joseph. He’s
acted in a slew of original, groundbreaking films for nearly five
decades. He’s known as wild and reclusive. He’s been called
difficult, stubborn, or as his co-star Amy Irving describes him,
"complicated and intense." But these are all images of Dennis
Hopper. The reality is that he is more like Joseph than most of his
harder characters. This is partly due to his upbringing on a Kansas
farm, and his meager beginnings.

"I remember where I came from," Hopper says. "It’s not difficult
for me to remember not having money. I remember my dream as a kid
was (to have) enough money to eat as many hamburgers as I wanted to
eat. I’m sure that’s not different from a lot of people."

Maybe not, but Hopper’s life after Kansas has been different.
Part of Hopper’s charm is that he realizes this, and is not at all
unappreciative.

"I think acting and the profession (I’m) in is a very privileged
place to be," he admits. "I love what I do, but to take advantage
of it is not an appropriate thing to do."

Hopper does take advantage of his success in one way ­ he
works hard, and often. After finishing "Carried Away," he began
shooting "Build a Fort, Burn It Down," a film about the late artist
Jean-Michel Basquiat. Hopper plays an art dealer alongside Gary
Oldman as painter Julian Schnabel and David Bowie as Andy Warhol.
He also plans to direct in the next year.

For now, Hopper is satisfied with his work in "Carried Away,"
and with the outcome of the movie.

"This sounds strange," he says, "but to me, when movies turn out
well it’s a little miracle. With this movie, no matter how anybody
may have tried to change it, it still stayed together and says what
it’s meant to say. And I think rather well and poetically."

Dennis Hopper departs from playing "heavy" roles during his
recent portrayal of Joseph Svendon in Bruno Barreto’s latest film
"Carried Away."

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