|Hopper on the set of The Last Movie in 1971|
When I first met him in 2008 at the opening of an exhibition of his photography, and later when I went to his art-filled compound in Venice, there was no sign of the gun-toting rebel he had been. In fact he was unfailingly courteous and friendly and eager to talk about art and artists rather than Hollywood and actors.
I didn't know at the time he was suffering from prostate cancer (he died in March 2010 aged 74) which had been diagnosed a decade earlier.
But his weird and wild life has been preserved for posterity in several books, the most recent being Hopper: A Journey Into the American Dream, by Tom Felsom which highlights some of the more dramatic events in his life: There was the time he pulled a knife on Rip Torn in 1968, causing Torn to pull out of Easy Rider and allowing Jack Nicholson to grab the star-making role.
Then there was Hopper's orgy with his 16-year-old co-star Natalie Wood and director Nicholas Ray during the filming of 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. It ended, according to Hopper, when Wood's champagne bath inflamed her privates and sent her to hospital.
His days-long marriage to Michelle Phillips ended after he fired guns inside his Taos, New Mexico house while Phillips was reportedly handcuffed. And in 1984 there was the incident in a Mexican jungle when he "sexually assaulted a tree" and implored puzzled policemen to kill him.
He eventually went into rehab and gave up alcohol and drugs although I'd be very surprised if marijuana didn't help ease the pain of his cancer in its later stages.
Dennis Hopper was a true original and there will never be another like him