The Austin Chronicle

In the Hopper

Still Easy Riding

By Raoul Hernandez, August 22, 2008, Screens

Getting on the horn with Dennis Hopper at 6:45am jolts an inquiring mind like a scalding espresso to the lap.

"How's Austin?" exclaims the familiar voice, nary a Blue Velvet wheeze in earshot. "I love Austin. I learned to play golf at Pedernales with Willie and Waylon."

The still-avid easy rider took the role of Elegy's other dying animal, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet George O'Hearn, without reading the script or Philip Roth's source novel, and ultimately injects essential tonic to Ben Kingsley's 100-proof performance.

"To act with Sir Ben is to suddenly know you're acting," awes Hopper.

He first crossed paths with Penélope Cruz when he did jury duty at Cannes in 1992; she was there for Jamón Jamón (in which she co-starred with her current beau, Javier Bardem).

"She's matured a lot since I first met her at 16 for Bigas Luna's Jamón Jamón. I'm amazed at the depth she reached in this film. I'm really happy and proud to be a part of it. I've been in so many bad movies and fluff."

Informed that one of Elegy's most provocative lines isn't in Roth's The Dying Animal ("Beautiful women are invisible"), Hopper cites director Isabel Coixet's unseen beauty. "She's really wonderful, her sense of humor. She operates the camera, which is living and breathing, always moving."

Perhaps Hopper's distinguished gray prompted Sir Ben's recent claim of multiple retakes of their onscreen kiss together? Hopper bursts out laughing.

"He's so funny. That was an awkward moment. We only did it once."

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