Dennis Hopper Dies at Age 74

'Easy Rider' actor, director and co-writer had been battling prostate cancer.

March 26, 2010, 5:08 PM

May 29, 2010 — -- Dennis Hopper, the director, star and co-writer of "Easy Rider" and an edgy actor in numerous other films, has died at age 74 after a lengthy illness, his production company Easy Rider Productions confirmed.

Hopper died at 8:15 a.m. PT at his home in Venice, Calif., from complications of prostate cancer, a friend, Alex Hitz, told the Reuters news service.

Though he may be best known for "Easy Rider," the 1969 cult classic, Hopper's film and television career extended back into the 1950s and he stayed active up until recently.

He also was considered something of a Hollywood wild man, whose battles with drugs, alcohol and erratic behavior may have helped stall his career in periods both before and after "Easy Rider."

Nevertheless, he enjoyed an acting comeback in the 1980s and afterwards on the strength of films such as "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Rumble Fish" (1983) and "Blue Velvet" (1986).

Despite his declining condition in recent months, Hopper recently appeared in Hollywood to receive a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in March. Surrounded by his children and colleagues, the actor appeared to be in good spirits, smiling, laughing and waving.

"Everything I learned in life I learned from you," he told a crowd of supporters at the star ceremony, referring to Hollywood. "This means so much to me. Thank you very much everyone, and Hollywood."

By the time of his death, Hopper also had become well known for his paintings and photography, as well as an avid collector of art.

However, Hopper's final days were marked by his bitter divorce battle, in which he claimed his estranged wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper, stole valuable artwork and other property and kept him away from their 6-year-old daughter, Galen.

In a March statement, Hopper claimed the stolen items included silver flatware, Egyptian cotton linens, Venetian glass pieces and wood furniture from Africa, with a total worth of more than $1.5 million.

The month before, Hopper filed court papers claiming Duffy-Hopper hid Galen from him for long periods of time. He said he spent Christmas "in utter distress" after Duffy-Hopper took Galen to Boston, a trip he learned about from her attorney.

She, meanwhile, accused him of being verbally abusive and mentally incapable of making decisions for himself or in the best interests of Galen.

In his final days, Hopper made financial arrangements for his estranged wife and family. According to court documents filed in March, Duffy-Hopper will receive $250,000 from her late husband's $1 million life insurance policy and the balance will go to his estate. Hopper also arranged for Galen and his three other adult children from previous marriages to receive a "substantial portion" of the insurance. His will remains to be seen.

The actor dealt with marital woes throughout his five marriages.

In 1970, he wed Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas -- but their union lasted a grand total of eight days. Phillips later told Vanity Fair that she was subjected to "excruciating" treatment while with the actor.

Dennis Hopper's Long Hollywood Career

Born in Dodge City, Kan., in 1936, Hopper had a colorful career in Hollywood.

The 1969 film "Easy Rider," which Hopper wrote, directed and starred in, made him a major player in Hollywood.

"It was a movie that, it was a classic, almost an immediate classic, and people went to see it and people came back to the theater and saw movies again, so it was quite remarkable," Hopper told ABC News entertainment correspondent Bill Diehl.

But Hopper's next project, 1971's "The Last Movie," was considered an expensive, drug-addled flop.

Before "Easy Rider," Hopper had acted alongside James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant."

He received two Oscar nominations during his career, one for writing "Easy Rider" along with co-star Peter Fonda and Terry Southern, and the other for playing an alcoholic high-school basketball coach in the 1986 film "Hoosiers."

"It's just inspirational," Hopper once said of "Hoosiers" in an American Film Institute interview. "I have so many coaches come to me and so many players. ... They're all watching 'Hoosiers' suddenly. And it's the first time in my career, because I've played so many villains, that little kids come up to me and call me coach."

Hopper's more recent work included a major role in the TV series "Crash."

His voice will be heard in the animated film "Alpha and Omega," expected out this fall. And the Internet Movie Database lists him as a star of an additional unreleased film, "The Last Film Festival."

Asked in a 1990 interview about being called a Hollywood legend, Hopper told Diehl, "I guess if I really stop and think about it, which I try not to do, I guess I've known a lot of people. I've been very lucky to be in a lot of places. And I guess there's an old adage: 'If you just live long enough ...'"

ABC News Radio contributed to this report.

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