Inside Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie,” the Film That Hurt His Career

His follow-up to "Easy Rider" was supposed to change Hollywood.

dennis hopper
1969: Actor and director Dennis Hopper in a scene from his movie 'Easy Rider' in 1969. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
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Dennis Hopper spent years being regarded by much of Hollywood as an “ill-mannered, drug-addled lunatic,” in the words of Esquire, until his film, Easy Rider, became the surprise smash hit of 1969.

That film, made for less than half a million dollars, raked in $60 million at the box office. So in attempt to recreate that lucrative magic, Universal gave him total control over his next picture, The Last Movie, which Hopper wrote, directed, starred in and edited.

He called it the “first American art film,” and apparently believed that the project would likely determine the course of his future.

The Last Movie is the big one,” he told one journalist, according to Esquire. “If I foul up now, they’ll say Easy Rider was a fluke. But, I’ve got to take chances to do what I want.”

When The Last Movie opened, it broke New York’s RKO Theater’s single-day ticket sale record, but then it dropped off and was withdrawn after two weeks.

It was ultimately seen by almost no one, savaged by critics and unsupported by the studio. Esquire looks into the making of the film that did change the trajectory of Hopper’s career — just not in the way he probably would have liked.

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