How Dennis Hopper's 'Last Movie' Got Him Kicked Out Of Hollywood
By | July 8, 2019
You've seen Dennis Hopper's 1969 film Easy Rider -- have you ever seen his follow-up, The Last Movie?
After more than a decade spent scraping the bottom of the barrel in Hollywood, Dennis Hopper hit pay dirt with Easy Rider. Considered to be the first real counterculture film to crossover to the masses, the art house biker movie made $60 million at the box office on a half a million dollar budget in 1969. The film effectively ended the studio system and made Hopper Hollywood’s golden boy overnight.
With two Academy Award nominations, Easy Rider made Hopper look like a cinema sage in the eyes of producers looking for the next big thing. Universal wanted to capitalize on the success of Easy Rider, so they gave Hopper free reign with his next film, The Last Movie. The unrestrained freedom that Hopper had with this film gave the writer, director, and star an excuse to lean into the chemical and artistic excesses that would end up getting him kicked out of Hollywood for nearly a decade.
"The Last Movie" is a movie about movies
Hopper reportedly came up with the idea for The Last Movie in 1965 while smoking pot at the wrap party for a western in which he played a minor part. He was curious about what happened to the towns that played host to film sets after the carnival moved on. He envisioned a film wrapping in Chinchero, Peru and the locals taking up after the crew as a kind of retelling of the film.
With The Last Movie, Hopper wanted to ruminate on the process of Hollywood filmmaking and its effects on the people outside of the business. The film was given a budget of around a million dollars, and Hopper only took $500 a week with a promise of 50% of the profits. To Universal, this must have seemed like a can’t-miss opportunity.