Den­nis Hop­per

Crash star’s health cri­sis

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D EN­NIS Hop­per went so far as to put his life on the line— by post­pon­ing cru­cial treat­ment for deadly prostate can­cer — to fin­ish shoot­ing the sec­ond se­ries of LA-based drama se­ries Crash.

It’s a mea­sure of Hop­per’s stal­wart show-must-go-on com­mit­ment to his star­ring role as a Phil Spec­tor-es­que crazed record pro­ducer (Ben Cen­dars). As with the 2004 movie

Crash, which led to this se­ries, a racy and racially provoca­tive script in­ter­weaves and col­lides sto­ry­lines and char­ac­ters in ap­par­ently ran­dom ways. Sin­gle episodes are great for the oc­ca­sional fast-and-fu­ri­ous joyride, but the se­ries richly re­wards those in for the long haul.

A warn­ing though. Crash has an MA rat­ing, and you could ar­gue the vi­o­lence, gore, sex and ob­scen­i­ties are se­ri­ously R-rated.

Crash is jam-packed with cor­rupt cops, South Korean gang­sters, ex­tra­mar­i­tal action . . . and some tri­fling mid­dle­class do­mes­tics, per­haps so view­ers can catch their breath.

Hop­per’s pis­tol-pack­ing pro­ducer is the most dis­turb­ing. You feel he could blow any­one’s head off at any sec­ond.

The great mys­tery at the start of the sec­ond se­ries is why his new chauf­feur doesn’t run for his life while he has the chance.

Hop­per is spruik­ing Den­nis Hop­per and the New Hol­ly­wood, a cel­e­bra­tion of his work at Aus­tralian Cen­tre for the Mov­ing Im­age in Mel­bourne’s Fed­er­a­tion Square.

He was meant to be here for the ex­hi­bi­tion but was forced to can­cel be­cause of ill-health.

‘‘ I’ve had prostate can­cer for the past 10 years,’’ Hop­per says.

‘‘ I was ra­di­ated for it 10 years ago but they didn’t quite get it all, so I’ve been on med­i­ca­tion and manag­ing it. Now we’re try­ing a new treat­ment that’s com­ing out of Ja­pan.

‘‘ I’ve been do­ing a tele­vi­sion se­ries ( Crash), so I’ve put this off for some time.’’

An ACMI staffer says US re­ports of Hop­per be­ing on his death bed are greatly ex­ag­ger­ated. Dur­ing the show’s run, ACMI’s peo­ple have spo­ken reg­u­larly with Hop­per’s.

They say he is do­ing fine and ‘‘ chill­ing out at home keep­ing a low pro­file’’ — while fo­cus­ing on his highly pub­li­cised di­vorce.

The 73-year-old Hol­ly­wood bad boy and his doc­tor claim ha­rass­ment by his ex-wife is a more im­me­di­ate threat to his life than can­cer.

An af­fi­davit to the court from one of his physi­cians, Dr David Agus, states it is his

‘‘ be­lief and rec­om­men­da­tion that the less Mr Hop­per has to do with his es­tranged wife at this time, the more likely he is to have his life ex­tended’’.

En­ter­tain­ment web­site E! On­line sug­gests Hop­per — who rose to in­famy in 1969 as a coke-deal­ing, dope-smok­ing, acid-drop­ping hip­pie biker in

Easy Rider — may have one con­so­la­tion for his suf­fer­ing: ‘‘ med­i­cal mar­i­juana’’. Cer­tainly his Crash char­ac­ter tokes plan­ta­tions of the stuff, oblig­ingly rolled up by his new chauf­feur.

Over the decades, Hop­per’s crazed bad­dies have in­cluded a mur­der­ous Aus­tralian bushranger ( Mad Dog Mor­gan, 1976), psy­chotic crim­i­nal Frank Booth in Blue Vel­vet (1986), the mad bomber in

Speed (1994) and sadis­tic Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal tyrant Vic­tor Drazen in 24. Hop­per says his char­ac­ter in

Crash is ‘‘ as crazy and prob­a­bly cra­zier than any of them’’.

‘‘ He’s to­tally out of con­trol. He’s a . . . well, Phil Spec­tor and I shared offices for about 10 years,’’ Hop­per says with a laugh.

‘‘ He’s a mu­sic mogul who wants to get one last big hit go­ing, and he’s to­tally off the wall. He changes di­rec­tions about 20 times in a minute. But, you know, it’s a great part.

‘‘ It’s beau­ti­fully writ­ten and we have no lan­guage bar­ri­ers or sex­ual. It’s just free. It’s as free as tele­vi­sion will ever be.’’

Maybe for Hop­per — as shorter-lived ’ 60s icon Ja­nis Jo­plin sang — free­dom’s just an­other word for noth­ing left to lose.

Crash (MA), Fox­tel Show­case, Tues­day, 8.30pm King of the bad guys:

Den­nis Hop­per is mad about his role in


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