Last Tango in Los Angeles: Dennis Hopper


Dennis Hopper may never have wanted to be part of the “establishment,” but he was far and away one of America’s canonical figures. A retrospective of the actor, director, and artist’s photographs will go on view July 11 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In the February 1990 issue of Interview, Hopper spoke to David Denicolo about the ’60s, directing, and what it means to be a rebel–or not:

INTERVIEW: Do you think America thinks of you as a ‘60s icon?

DENNIS HOPPER: I don’t think in those terms, so I wouldn’t know what America thinks.

INTERVIEW: Why do you think the ‘60s are still so present in our minds? Why is it that the decade doesn’t seem to go away?

HOPPER: Because there haven’t been the innovations at any other time in the century that there were in the ‘60s. Nothing new has really come up again, unfortunately. We’re still playing rock music. And we’re still looking at ‘60s art even if it’s made now. I think that’s sort of a drag, but it’s a reality. Also, the people who were the rebels then are now the establishment.

INTERVIEW: What does “establishment” mean?

HOPPER: It means the people who are giving you the jobs.

INTERVIEW: So the establishment is measured by who’s got the money?

HOPPER: Well, it’s not just money. I consider myself establishment right now. I’m borderline establishment, I’m hanging on by my toenails—but I’m establishment.

INTERVIEW: Do you have a favorite memory from the ‘60s?

HOPPER: No. I don’t think about the ‘60s very much. I think about the ‘50s probably more than I think about the ‘60s. And I don’t think about the ‘50s very much either. The ‘40s I hardly think about at all. I’m trying to remember the ‘30s. But my main thought right now is to figure out how I can get out of going to the gym tomorrow morning.

INTERVIEW: You’re an actor and a photographer. Do you write too?

HOPPER: Yes, I wrote Easy Rider.

INTERVIEW: If you had to choose between those, what do you like doing best?

HOPPER: Talking on the telephone. [laughs] I wouldn’t pick one. I started out an actor, and I’ll always act. They’ll always give me money to act because I’m a good actor. Directing is a major job. I’ll direct as long as I can. Hot Spot is the film that I’ve just finished directing. It’s going to be great, man. With Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and Jennifer Connelly.

INTERVIEW: What’s it going to be like?

HOPPER: Last Tango in Texas.