JoBlo.com/AITH interviews Dennis Hopper
It's not everyday that you meet a cinema ICON and to be honest, it was quite the thrill. Dennis Hopper is a veteran of the industry. let me put it this way: Rebel Without A Cause (with James Dean), Easy Rider, Hang Them High, Apocalypse Now....and the list goes on. I was a little nervous talking with the man but swiftly realized that he was kool as a cucumber, with zero pretenses. I also really liked that said the word "man" way more than I do. Dennis shared his Land of the Dead thoughts with us and here's the result.
Who is your character of Kaufman?
He built the city to keep all the zombies out. That’s who he is.
Is your character a good guy or a bad guy?
I think he’s a wonderful guy, he’s built this wonderful place, he’s misunderstood you know.
How is he misunderstood?
Well obviously he has a few enemies but he’s trying to keep a clean house and keep things straight. I’d just never though the undead would get across the river honestly.
LOL! Who does he house in this complex?
It’s for a select few members that Cho Lo wants to become. Cho Lo wants to live in the “Green”, it’s called the “Green”. And I explain to him that there’s a long waiting list. He says “how long?”, I say this is a prime location, the space is very limited, I mean I do have a board of directors and a membership committee that have to approve. He says don’t do that to me man, I’ve been taking your garbage out, don’t tell me that I cant…you’re the bad guy…. That’s what I mean by misunderstood. So I ring for my guys to come in and take him away. I say we’ll talk about this when he’s less excited.
So he’s kind of a politician and a CEO too?
Yeah he’s running everything actually so he makes games and vices for the people on the street to distract them from getting to the “green”. And he’s paying an army that he’s trained, he’s spending a lot of money but because its his responsibility cause someday you may be able to earn responsibility of your own but right now there all mine. He believes in his world but he has an escape route, he has outposts, he’s going to take care of everybody and so on.
How do you see this as a metaphor as to what is going on today?
I just see it as doing a part in a script.
You know what I mean; I think it probably all fits together; George Romero, that’s what he’s about.
Do you see your character as an interpretation of real people that are out there.
Well I’m sure that people like this exist for real out there.
You are a Cult figure of the 70’s, the Golden age of cinema, how do explain the ghost of the 70’s coming back today?
I mean it was a time where we were freer, we had broken away from the Studios for a moment, basically due to things that came out of Europe, that came out of France, Goddart, Truffaut, we heard them saying that you can leave the Studios behind their walls, the whole world is Studio, go out there and make movies. And so the 70’s became a breakaway and suddenly there was a group of directors that were free for a while and for one moment Hollywood thought that the Directors made the movies, but it was very short lived because they grabbed it back. It was a very free moment, it wasn’t driven by the same things the industry is driven by now.
But today the 70’s are still alive with all these remakes and now you and Romero…
Yes Romero’s first Zombie movie came out in 1969, the same year that Easy Rider came out. It’s wonderful that he’s making this film.
Are you a fan of his other films; do you like them?
Yeah! Zombie movies!
Are you a horror fan? If somebody would have told you 2 or 3 years ago; Dennis you’re going to be a in a Zombie movie; would’ve you have stopped it?
No, it’s probably a great up for me.
What attracted you to this production and this character?
Well I’ve played golf with Mark Canton for the last 8 years, every Friday and Saturday. And George Romero is doing it, its Universal Pictures distributing it, it’s a lead heavy and it sounded right to me. I couldn’t find any downside to it, maybe except the money.
How much room is George giving ya to improvise?
I’m not planning on doing any improv.
Oh no! I’m surprised actually!
I didn’t do any improve when I worked with Lynch on Blue Velvet, lots of films I haven’t improved in. Then there’s some films where I only improved in like Apocalypse Now. But I don’t really see any reason to improve here, I think he’s got a really tight ship. I’ll stick to the words unless he asks me to improvise.
Do you see your character as evil or is it the power that’s corrupted him.
Well he’s really responsible, I mean he’s in charge of this whole thing but he’s a psychopath and he’s a murderer. He throws people out to the zombies… if they don’t work out, he just tosses them out. But he does keep the people behind him safe and the things he promises, he delivers. He never expected that the zombies would come across the river and never expected that the Dead Reckoning would be stolen by Cho Lo who is one of his henchmen, one he thought he’d had gotten rid of but that got away.
Dawn of the Dead was a metaphor on consumerism; what do you think is behind this one?
I think that if I’d ever read anything more than my part, I would probably know more.
I find it confusing for a guy to be playing just one part and know about all the other people.
Do we get a background on Kaufman, how he came to be?
You don’t get a lot of that; you don’t get a back-story. You can only imagine, he must have been….
LOL! All of the actors come from a different background; how are you all meshing on set?
I haven’t started work yet, I start tomorrow. But I have worked with John Leguizamo before and think he’s one of the moist gifted actors they’re is this man is really talented. I’ve also seen him in some dailies and he’s going to be sensational in this picture.
How do you feel about working with George Romero?
I admire him and I think he did a wonderful thing with his films in Pittsburgh, I know this is more money than he ever had before and you have to admire him. Where he came from, how far he went and how he influenced so many people. It’s an honor for me to be here.
Are you conscious of the evolution of the characters you’ve played? In 69 you were a hippie and now the total opposite of that in playing a big mogul?
Yeah, its possible man, yeah this can really happen…well you know when you’re young you’re one way, when you’re older…well…you know this guy was probably a hippie once. He probably built this place out of hippiedum.
Your character boxed himself in because its very dangerous outside, being a celebrity; is your life a little bit like that now?
Well I think being an actor, you’re already in a privileged position, you don’t get a good look at things, you think you do but you’re not really. But I don’t have bodyguards; I never had all that stuff. Body Guards get in the way, you trip over them, and they cause attention. It just seems to be a ridiculous way to deal with anything. So I never really think about it unless I’m going through sox at a store, people are staring me so I think, what they think I’m going to steal something and then it dawns on me oh I’m Dennis Hopper. But I don’t think about this most of the time…
What do you foresee to be your character arc?
Its like this (points up) and then like that (swooshes down); it’s a down hill slide quite rapidly.
After all that time doing movies; are you still learning?
Hopefully you’re still learning all the time; every experience is different but the way we make movies hasn’t changed at all, its still the same process.
I'd like to thank Dennis for being as kool as ever with us raving fanboys. It was a honor for me to meet the man. Hopefully some of his greatness will rub off on me. COME ON! I NEED IT!