R.I.P. American Graffiti and The Wild Bunch actor Bo Hopkins

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Bo Hopkins
Bo Hopkins

Bo Hopkins, who appeared in The Wild Bunch, American Graffiti, and Midnight Express, has died. This comes from Variety, which says the news was confirmed by Hopkins’ official website. The statement doesn’t give a cause of death, but it does note that Hopkins “loved hearing from his fans” and that, while he wasn’t always able to respond to every email he received lately, “he appreciated hearing from each and every one of you.” A report from The Hollywood Reporter says that Hopkins’ wife confirmed he died from suffering a heart attack earlier this month. Hopkins was 80.

Bo Hopkins, whose real name was William Hopkins (Variety says he took the name Bo from Bus Stop, his first off-Broadway play), grew up in South Carolina and was raised by his grandparents after his father died at a young age, at which point he found out he was actually adopted and later met with his birth parents. He joined the military as a teenager, serving in Korea for nine months, and after he turned 18—having already had a daughter with a woman he had married and later divorced—he decided he wanted to try acting.

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He appeared in local productions in Kentucky but moved to New York and then Los Angeles after a few years. Hopkins appeared in a number of Westerns in the ‘60s, with one of his first film roles being in Sam Pekinpah’s classic of the genre The Wild Bunch as Clarence “Crazy” Lee. He also worked with Peckinpah on The Getaway and appeared in Midnight Express and American Graffiti. As Variety points out, over a decades-long career with over 100 credits to his name, Hopkins gradually went from playing “sadistic rednecks” and outlaw-types to more heroic and noble characters.

His final film role was as Papaw, writer J.D. Vance’s grandfather in Ron Howard’s adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy (with Hopkins and Howard reuniting for the first time since American Graffiti).