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Dennis Hopper interview, original excerpts
August 18, 1995

Dennis & Victoria

Dennis Hopper: 
"Victoria And I Don't Want Children: We Are Too Busy."

Playing maniacs

Deacon, in Waterworld, is one more evil role for you. Aren't you a little tired of playing evil persons sometimes? Aren't you longing for nicer characters in the near future?
Well, I would like to vary my work a little, I'm certainly getting the "heavies" lately. After Speed and Waterworld , and going back to Blue Velvet, I seem to be playing a lot of "heavies." I would like to do some more, but I'll tell you something, sometimes the heavies are lot more interesting than the others.
But your characters are not only nasty, they're vicious on top of that!
I've been asked this question a lot, and I finally came up with what I felt was an intelligent answer, whether it is bullshit or not it's quite another story, but at least I found it intelligent. Before going to Los Angeles when I was 18 and starting to work for Warner Bros., by the time I was 13 to 18, I did Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, a replica of the famous Globe Theatre, built for the World Fair. And the great roles that you want to obtain in Shakespeare are Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Iago, Othello all the leads, all the great parts in Shakespeare are almost all mad men, insane murderers. These are the parts I've grown up wanting to play, so it's not terribly different for me to be drawn to the parts that I play now.
Where do you find this violent energy you exude in these characters? How do you psyche yourself up to give this energy back?
Oh, I don't know, I guess Lee Strasberg. (from the Actors Studio) I've had good tutoring. It's not complicated, it's a little like driving a car.

The house in Venice, California

The house you built is quite peculiar. Could you describe it?
My office is by Frank Gehry (the American Center in Paris), and the other part of the house is by the architect Brian Murphy. I call it the Art Barn, I built it seven years ago, when I directed Colors with Sean Penn. It's a big metal house, closed on the outside, with the light coming through skylights. It's perfect for my art collection.
What did you ask from the architects?
Basically, I wanted them to use industrial prefab factory parts, I also wanted the three garage doors in front, so I could actually drive my car into the house. There's two stories, it's a very interesting space.

Collector and artist

What are the artists that you are collecting in particular?
Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Julian Schnabel, Richard Serra, Peter Schuyff, Wallace Berman, Keinholtz, Bruce Conner, George Herms, David Salle, Andy Warhol,
Do you still paint?
Yes, but I could hardly find any time to do it lately, I am always traveling. Besides, my studio is in Taos, New Mexico and it's not easy to arrange for some time between shootings. But if I have an exhibit coming, I try to cut out the other things to go there.
Where do you show your paintings?
I've had two or three shows in Los Angeles, one at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I had exhibitions at the gallery of Tony Shafrazi in New York, at Thaddaeus Ropac's too, in Paris and soon, too, I will have a big retrospective at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

Venice Beach

In which area of Los Angeles is your house?
In Venice, in an old dingy neighborhood taken over by artists.
Frank Gehry also designed this ad agency with the giant binoculars framing its door.
Oh yeah, it's just a half a block away from my house.
This is one of the neighborhoods with the most urban feel in Los Angeles...
Yes and it is also beachy. It's more like Coney Island, with a crazy beach, a surfer's beach. I moved there because it's a poor area where artists could find studios and store fronts. What's striking is that my first memories of Venice were when Jean Tinguely and Nikki de Saint-Phalle had a studio down there, called the Zinc-Zinc Company. This was the early 60's. In the 50's it was the beat poets. Poets and jazz were playing in the coffee houses of Venice. So, when I finally moved back to LA, ten or twelve years ago, I remembered that I liked Venice a lot. All my friends were, "Oh don't go there!", because it's a poor, ran down, area. But I went and I overbuilt in a very poor area. (laugh) Anyway, I like it there.


As a writer, actor and director, how do you value art in the movies?
It's been my whole life, dedicated to it, toiled in the vineyards of culture (laugh) At the same time I have a business. They say, "We're a business, we're a business, not an art form," but as a matter of fact, it is an art form, also. "Art" is a bad word in Hollywood. (laugh) You use "art" too many time and they show you the elevator and then your name is taken off the parking lot. You have to be careful before you say the word "art."