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Film

How Wim Wenders helped Dennis Hopper get off drugs

Dennis Hopper earned the notorious title of “Hollywood’s Original Hell-Raiser” because of his infamous adventures under the influence of every drug available on the planet. From LSD to cocaine, Hopper was a connoisseur of all kinds of psychoactive substances which is why he ended up in bizarre situations all the time.

From snorting the ashes of a dead woman to searching for his own mortality in the jungles of Mexico, Hopper indulged in a lot of crazy activities which solidified his reputation. According to Hopper, he was on a very dangerous road until German auteur Wim Wenders interfered during the production of the 1977 neo-noir classic The American Friend.

While recalling the details of this interaction in an interview, Hopper described the condition he was in after filming Apocalypse Now: “I came from Apocalypse Now to do The American Friend with Wim and when I came out of the jungles in the Philippines, Wim described me as having jungle sores all over my body.”

At the time, Hopper was on a dangerous daily combination of three grams of cocaine combined with 28 beers and half a gallon of rum. He even had his reserves of alcohol in case he ran out of his enormous supply. It is truly astonishing how he was able to survive on this diet but the actor managed to perform in this state as well.

When Wenders saw what Hopper was doing, he came to the addict’s rescue: “He gave me a haircut and put me in a homburg. It was like being in a blizzard – you’re lost, you’re going to die, and suddenly this St. Bernard dog called Wim comes with cognac around his neck and saves your life. And that’s the way I felt about the situation at the time.”

At the time, Hopper believed that being hooked on drugs was the only way to access his artistic side. Through his extravagant indulgences, he wanted to get closer to the experiences of great artists such as van Gogh but he soon realised that substance abuse was actively harming his career prospects and artistic trajectory.

The scary part was he did not realise how bad it was back then: “I didn’t think of my life as being bad when I was using and drinking, I just thought it was out of control.” However, Hopper sought professional help much later when he finally made the decision to enter a drug rehabilitation program in 1983.

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