By Oliver Jones
June 14, 2010 12:00 PM

1969

THE REBEL

“I’m not really a person that looks back on my life,” he told the London Times last September. “It was really a wonderful time. No, I don’t think I would change anything.”

1969

THREE FOR THE ROAD

Hopper (left), Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and a pair of female companions hit Cannes to promote their movie Easy Rider.

1954

A LIFE ONSCREEN

The contract player broke out in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. “I believed I was the best actor I knew at my age,” he told TIME. “That is, until I saw James Dean.”

1969

BORN TO BE WILD

Hopper directed Easy Rider, a saga about drug-dealing bikers that became a counterculture touchstone. “Dennis stands out because of his edge, his sincerity, the honesty he conveys,” costar Nicholson later told TIME. “And he does things his way.”

1978

LOSING HIS HEAD

Hopper (checking out a model head for a gory scene) was in the throes of addiction when he played a photographer in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. When an incoherent Hopper fumbled his lines, Coppola teased him: “It’s not fair to forget ’em if you never knew ’em.”

1986

DARK JOURNEY

A sober Hopper played a gas-huffing villain in Blue Velvet. “It’s not necessary, to be an artist, to derange your senses,” he said.

1994

POP QUIZ, HOTSHOT

After the success of Speed, Hopper spent a decade as a go-to bad guy. “There was a time when I couldn’t get work because no one knew who I was anymore,” he said in 1995. “Now I’m in danger of not getting work because I’m too well-known.”

2005

FAMILY TIME

Married five times (his last to estranged wife Victoria, far right), Hopper has four children including Henry, 19, and Ruthanna, 37.

Dennis Hopper was truly born to be wild. By the late ’70s the actor was putting away a case of beer, a half gallon of rum and three grams of cocaine a day. “What can I say?” he wryly told PEOPLE in 1983 as he made a life-altering turn towards sobriety. “I was a fun guy.”

From his days as a ringleader of Hollywood’s ’60s wild bunch to fierce turns in movies such as Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet, Hopper, who died May 29 at age 74 following a decadelong battle with prostate cancer, was certainly never boring. Born in Dodge City, Kans., Hopper, whose father was a postmaster and mother a lifeguard instructor, spent 50-plus roller-coaster years in Hollywood, earning a rep for being defiant, loving and a rebel to the core. “We rode the highways of America and changed the way movies were made in Hollywood,” said Peter Fonda of his Easy Rider buddy. “I was blessed by his passion and friendship.”

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