Dennis Hopper was known for breaking new ground. His 1969 writing-directing debut Easy Rider — in which he played an authority-averse hippie — is credited with ushering in cinema’s Golden Age. And the actor took a lot of chances during his decades-long acting career, whether it was playing a sexually depraved psychopath in Blue Velvet (1986), a rambling journalist in Apocalypse Now (1979), or a maritime gang leader in Waterworld (1995).
Hopper died in 2010, at the age of 74. But his big-screen work isn’t finished yet. In two exclusive clips — which you can watch above and below — you can glimpse of Hopper’s swansong, The Last Film Festival. In this indie satire, Hopper plays a big-shot Hollywood producer slumming it at a shabby film festival. Directed by Linda Yellen, known for her work in television and independent film, The Last Film Festival is now seeking completion funds via a newly launched Kickstarter campaign.
Hopper stars as Nick Twain, whose recent film flop gets accepted into just one film festival – the badly organized, disastrously executed O’Hi Film Festival. When Twain and his dysfunctional team descend upon the fest, Hollywood egos and small town ambitions collide. The cast includes Jacqueline Bisset, Chris Kattan, Katrina Bowden, and JoBeth Williams, the latter whom shares a giggle-inspiring sex scene with Hopper.
The movie's title is markedly similar to Hopper's directorial followup to Easy Rider, The Last Movie. But Yellen tells Yahoo Movies it was a sheer coincidence. "Dennis and I noticed and commented on the connections [and] similarities. One is about making a movie (The Last Movie) and the other is about 'remaking a movie' in the eyes of the audience (The Last Film Festival). Of course neither of us contemplated the tragic irony of it being his last film," she says.
"[Hopper] was very inventive, and knew this character so well," Yellen recalls. Fittingly, she first met the actor at the Sundance Film Festival just before getting to work on her film. "We shared the same sense of humor. Sundance was a perfect setting to discuss an idea about a film festival… Plus, Dennis so symbolized independent film, [it was] perfect to have him play this filmmaker out with a bomb of an independent film."
One of the biggest challenges for the actor was filming the aforementioned sex scene with Williams, in which their characters get amorous on a high school principal’s desk with Williams. According to Yellen, Hopper was flummoxed "when their sounds of love making had to be heard on the loudspeaker. So we discussed what a Method actor would do.”
When Hopper died, he was just a few scenes short of completing his work on Festival. Initial production wrapped in early 2009, and Hopper was set to return in 2010 to finish scenes. But in Thanksgiving 2009, he learned of his illness, and Film Festival has been in limbo ever since. Funds from Kickstarter will help set the movie’s post-production process into motion with the goal of being finished in time to enter the festival circuit starting this year.
"The most precious memories I have about the film and Dennis have not to do specifically with the filming of scenes, but [the] long walks Dennis and I took during the lunch hour,” Yellen recalls. “We discussed everything — anything but the film. Those walks are indelibly etched in my brain. I only wish I had a camera going.”
You can donate to The Last Film Festival Kickstarter campaign here.