CANNES, France - Henry Hopper's father tried to talk him out of a career in Hollywood, but for the son of the late, great actor Dennis Hopper, the allure of moviemaking proved too strong.
The 20-year-old makes his screen debut in Gus Van Sant's Cannes Film Festival entry "Restless," playing an orphaned teenager whose idea of a good time is crashing funerals, whose best friend is the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from World War II and whose love interest — played by Mia Wasikowska — has terminal brain cancer.
Not an easy role for anyone, but the novice actor pulls it off with freshness and aplomb.
"I resisted being an actor for some time ... (but) I'm realizing it's a means of self-expression," Hopper told journalists Friday at a Cannes news conference. "You would see people go through, you know, struggle with it. It's an intense thing to go about and do. But if you can dedicate yourself to something, you should."
Hopper wasn't the only member of the "Restless" team to ignore parental advice to steer clear of Hollywood. The film's producer, Bryce Dallas Howard, said her dad, heavyweight director Ron Howard, also counseled her "'If there's anything else you can do, other than making movies, you should probably do that.'"
"But I don't think there's anything else I can do," said Howard, a 30-year-old who has acted in many movies and directed one of her own. "Restless" was her first foray into producing.
The project was born out of three separate ideas that Howard's New York University classmate, screenwriter Jason Lew, had been working on.
"He wrote this film and I was lucky enough for him to share it with me, just as his friend, and I became obsessed with it and there was never any intention of producing it," Howard said.
For a film obsessed with death, "Restless" is surprisingly light fare, quirkily cute and gently poignant.
Wasikowska — sporting a Jean Seberg-esque pixie cut — has an offbeat charm. And Hopper, with his blond hair and angelic features, looks like a baby-faced version of his father, drained of all the late actor's trigger-happy impetuousness.
Van Sant, who won Cannes' top Palme d'Or prize, said he's a pessimist by nature but that "Restless" was part of his growing "optimistic wing."