Tuesday, February 13, 2007

beta's mind is enlarged

I met Dennis Hopper last night, as part of a lecture series at NYU. When I mention a project I'm working on that I need to interview him for, his eyes widen and shine. For a man as renowned for madness, for willful trepanning his cerebellum with chemical "combo plates," his memory is surprisingly lucid, expansive.

Discourse on the night ranges:

• James Dean (they worked together on Giant and he recounts how Dean took a piss before 200 people so he wouldn't be so nervous in his scene with Elizabeth Taylor)
• Andy Warhol (he bought one of the first Campbell soup cans and a visit to Hopper's pop playground pad out in LA blew Warhol's mind much like how a visit to the Factory blew Hopper's mind)
• Dean Stockwell (the boy with green hair who wrote a screenplay to accompany Neil Young's After the Goldrush)
• Rod Serling (from his work on The Twilight Zone)
• Miles Davis (on the displaced junkie jazz scene that hung in LA and how if Miles hadn't turned his back on the crowd, jazz might still be America's dominant art form)
• Marcel Duchamp (he tells of a displaced Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Man Ray hanging out in Hollywood)
• David Lynch (he is the real deal, the quintessential scout leader)
• Bruce Conner (who bursts into tears when Hopper offered him a deal with Universal to make his films, crying ""What do you think I am?!" before storming out. Apparently Conner is in the hospital right now and very ill)

He talks about how stuntmen provided him with his education of physicality, as did Dean and his ability to project with his body. He doesn't dig Godard's movies but realized how the man enlarged his mind. In the studio system, "they built Europe on the lot. (Post-Godard) the world was a soundstage." Duchamp was revelatory, telling him in 1963 about the artist of the future, a person who will "just point his finger and say, 'it's art' and it'll be art." If only Rrose Selavie coulda watched some YouTube. If only The Last Movie could've been shot on digital, he now laments, perhaps to take its rightful place alongside Lynch's Inland Empire and Anthony Hopkins's forthcoming Slipstream.


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