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Dennis Hopper: His rebellious roles on film reflected his life

Actor Dennis Hopper, was one of Hollywood’s most successful figures, an out-sized and sometimes outlandish character whose career covered the second half of the 20th century.

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Actor Dennis Hopper waves as he arrives at the Closing Ceremony of the 61st Cannes International Film Festival on May 25, 2008 in France. Hopper, known for directing and starring in the 1969 cult classic “Easy Rider,” died Saturday at his home in Venice, California.

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In real life as well as on-screen, Dennis Hopper was one of Hollywood’s most successful figures, an out-sized and sometimes outlandish character whose career covered the second half of the 20th century.

A friend and great admirer of James Dean, he once described the iconic star of “Rebel Without a Cause” (in which Hopper played a small part) as “a guerrilla artist who attacked all restrictions on his sensibility…. I imitated his style in art and in life. It got me in a lot of trouble.”

Trouble for Hopper, who died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles, took the form of drug and alcohol abuse as well as five failed marriages (one of which, to The Mamas & the Papas singer Michelle Phillips, lasted just eight days).

In Pictures: Cannes Film Festival 2010

But though it stumbled from time to time, Hopper’s career had many high points.

He both directed and starred in (with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson) “Easy Rider,” the 1969 low-budget film that was a box-office smash. Coming at a time when the Vietnam War was wrenching American politics and society and when the counter-culture was fully defining the 60s, its worldview stood for all that seemed to be troubling and disruptive at the time.

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