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Int: Dennis Hopper

06.08.2005by: The Arrow 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. Thatís who he is.

Is your character a good guy or a bad guy?

I think heís a wonderful guy, heís built this wonderful place, heís misunderstood you know.

How is he misunderstood?

Well obviously he has a few enemies but heís trying to keep a clean house and keep things straight. Iíd just never though the undead would get across the river honestly.

LOL! Who does he house in this complex?

Itís for a select few members that Cho Lo wants to become. Cho Lo wants to live in the ďGreenĒ, itís called the ďGreenĒ. And I explain to him that thereís a long waiting list. He says ďhow long?Ē, 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 donít do that to me man, Iíve been taking your garbage out, donít tell me that I cantÖyouíre the bad guyÖ. Thatís what I mean by misunderstood. So I ring for my guys to come in and take him away. I say weíll talk about this when heís less excited.

So heís kind of a politician and a CEO too?

Yeah heís running everything actually so he makes games and vices for the people on the street to distract them from getting to the ďgreenĒ. And heís paying an army that heís trained, heís 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, heís 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, thatís what heís about.

Do you see your character as an interpretation of real people that are out there.

Well Iím sure that people like this exist for real out there.

You are a Cult figure of the 70ís, the Golden age of cinema, how do explain the ghost of the 70ís 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 70ís 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 wasnít driven by the same things the industry is driven by now.

But today the 70ís are still alive with all these remakes and now you and RomeroÖ

Yes Romeroís first Zombie movie came out in 1969, the same year that Easy Rider came out. Itís wonderful that heís 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 youíre going to be a in a Zombie movie; wouldíve you have stopped it?

No, itís probably a great up for me.

What attracted you to this production and this character?

Well Iíve 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, itís a lead heavy and it sounded right to me. I couldnít find any downside to it, maybe except the money.

How much room is George giving ya to improvise?

Iím not planning on doing any improv.

Oh no! Iím surprised actually!

I didnít do any improve when I worked with Lynch on Blue Velvet, lots of films I havenít improved in. Then thereís some films where I only improved in like Apocalypse Now. But I donít really see any reason to improve here, I think heís got a really tight ship. Iíll stick to the words unless he asks me to improvise.

Do you see your character as evil or is it the power thatís corrupted him.

Well heís really responsible, I mean heís in charge of this whole thing but heís a psychopath and heís a murderer. He throws people out to the zombiesÖ if they donít 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 heíd 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 Iíd 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 donít get a lot of that; you donít get a back-story. You can only imagine, he must have beenÖ.

A Prick.


LOL! All of the actors come from a different background; how are you all meshing on set?

I havenít started work yet, I start tomorrow. But I have worked with John Leguizamo before and think heís one of the moist gifted actors theyíre is this man is really talented. Iíve also seen him in some dailies and heís 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. Itís an honor for me to be here.

Are you conscious of the evolution of the characters youíve 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 happenÖwell you know when youíre young youíre one way, when youíre olderÖwellÖyou 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, youíre already in a privileged position, you donít get a good look at things, you think you do but youíre not really. But I donít 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 Iím going through sox at a store, people are staring me so I think, what they think Iím going to steal something and then it dawns on me oh Iím Dennis Hopper. But I donít think about this most of the timeÖ

What do you foresee to be your character arc?

Its like this (points up) and then like that (swooshes down); itís a down hill slide quite rapidly.

After all that time doing movies; are you still learning?

Hopefully youíre still learning all the time; every experience is different but the way we make movies hasnít 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!





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