Hopper was still alive then, and was deeply moved by the Governor’s Proclamation, which meant a lot to this long time resident of the Land of Enchantment, who had pretty much put the region on the map with his iconic movie, Easy Rider.
Dennis loved New Mexico and Taos especially, where he kept a residence until his death in May of 2010.
Taos is where Dennis is buried and is still home to several members of his family, including his brother David and cousin, Duane.
In 2014, his oldest daughter Marin Hopper, and life long, close friend, Robby Romero launched the first annual Dennis Hopper Day in Taos. Robby approached the Taos Pueblo and the Town and County of Taos about proclaiming May 17th Dennis Hopper Day in Taos. Since then the event has grown organically to include a bike rally and Easy Rider Ride, a Buffalo barbecue (catered by Tiwa Kitchen of Taos Pueblo) and a Rebel Film Festival featuring Hopper’s classic films.
Hopper began acting as a child, growing up in Dodge City, Kansas. Later after the family moved to California, he studied Drama throughout his youth with an emphasis on Shakespearian Acting. He attended the Actors Studio and made his first television appearance in 1954. Soon after he appeared in Johnny Guitar, directed by Nicholas Ray in New Mexico (1954). He then appeared alongside James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956).
Over the following decade he made a name for himself in television, and by the end of the 1960s had also appeared in several films. Hopper also began a prolific and acclaimed photography career that continued until his death.
His directorial film debut with Easy Rider (1969), which he and co-star Peter Fonda wrote with Terry Southern, earned him critical acclaim and cult status. The film won Hopper a Cannes Film Festival Award for “Best First Work” and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (shared with Fonda and Southern).
He worked on various projects including a series of International films, until his seminal role as the American photojournalist in Apocalypse Now (1979), once again earned him respect and critical acclaim as an actor.
He enjoyed a career resurgence in 1986, when he garnered further acclaim for his performances in Blue Velvet and Hoosiers, which earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Hopper’s later work included a leading role in the hit television series Crash (2008–2009), inspired by the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, also shot in New Mexico.
Hopper remained a relevant and prolific artist, actor and director right to the end.
In 2009, Hopper was honored by the Harwood Museum here in Taos. Hopper at the Harwood: L.A. to Taos 40 Years of Friendship, was Guest Curated by Dennis Hopper. The Museum featured the work of Larry Bell and Ron Davis, Ron Cooper, Robert Dean Stockwell and Ken Price.
“Dennis Hopper Day is a gift to Taos.” said Robby when I talked to him last week. “It’s about celebrating the iconoclastic spirit of one of the most creative, courageous artists of our time, in the artistic community he loved and called home.”
This year, due to Robby’s grueling schedule which has him coming and going from Standing Rock and further afield, the event will be more low-key than usual. In the past Patricia Arquette came for the festivities, and other guests have included Dean Stockwell and Gary Farmer. As rumours swirl no one ever knows who is going to show up at the Hopper Happening. In the spirit of the Mud Palace, you just have to be there.
Dennis Hopper Day is an Eagle Thunder Presents event, supported by The Dennis Hopper Art Trust.
Dennis Hopper had a career that spanned more than five decades, influencing Popular Culture in the 60’s and 70’s perhaps more than anyone aside from Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Easy Rider and its soundtrack informed the Counter Culture.
For more information, including an itinerary of events scheduled, please visit the official Dennis Hopper Day website linked below this post.
All images Easy Rider stills copyright 1969 Columbia Pictures.