Dennis Hopper: A Supporting Actor Who Stole The Show

By Penny Chavers
Dennis Hopper in "Apocalypse Now," 1979. Source: (businessinsider.com)

He played Billy in Easy Rider, the Photojournalist in Apocalypse Now, Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, and Shooter in Hoosiers -- where do you rank the late Dennis Hopper among the great supporting actors in Hollywood history? 

Of course, Hopper was many things in his life: an actor, a director, a photographer, an artist, a screenwriter, and an activist. He was also an addict, a loose cannon, a bad boy, and a troublemaker. Hopper wasn't fated to be a leading man, but at his best, he was one of the great supporting actors ever seen on film. Perhaps because of the tumultuous life he led, Dennis Hopper was a supporting actor who brought needed electricity to his scenes. And if he sometimes stole those scenes -- well, the guy was just that good. What are you gonna do about it? 

Dennis Hopper was born in Dodge City, Kansas on May 17, 1936. His mother, Marjorie Hopper, managed the local swimming pool while his father, Jay Hopper, worked for the Railway Mail Service. Hopper went to live on his grandparent's farm after his father joined the military during World War II. When his father returned, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. It was there that Hopper developed an interest in art and drama after enrolling in an art class at Nelson Art Gallery. The family moved yet again in 1949, this time to San Diego, California, due to his brother David’s asthma.