Hollywood hellraiser Dennis Hopper died on Saturday, aged 74, after a battle with prostate cancer.
I remember the first time I saw Hopper in a film. It was 1986 or 87, I was a teenager and I rented Blue Velvet from the local video library. It was also the first David Lynch film I had ever seen and it blew me away, not least because of Hopper’s powerhouse performance in a deeply disturbing role.
He plays Frank Booth, a perverse, sadistic, drug-addicted sociopath who has kidnapped the husband and child of lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosselini) to force her to become his slave and take part in his bizarre psycho-sexual fantasies.
Clean cut college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) stumbles into Frank’s dark world, which lurks beneath the seemingly respectable surface of his home town of Lumberton, when he finds a severed ear in a field.
The film marked both a slight shift towards the mainstream for Lynch – which continued a few years later with his TV masterpiece Twin Peaks, which further explored and developed many of the themes from Blue Velvet – and a career rebirth for Hopper, whose own struggles with drugs and violent temper had all-but ostracised him from the mainstream film industry at the time.
Hopper famously read the script for Blue Velvet and told Lynch he had to cast him as Frank Booth because “I AM Frank Booth”.
Here are a couple of his finest moments from Blue Velvet, starting off with the film’s signature scene, which features some memorable lip-synching from co-star Dean Stockwell:
And here is a memorable (for all the wrong reasons) screen kiss: