By Karina Longworth
California may have spent the last five years under the rule of a
Republican movie star, but news that major industry players are
anything but super-lefty liberals still seems to strike many as a
surprise. Responding to a story in which it's casually mentioned that
Dennis Hopper is expected to attend the Republican National
Convention, Defamer's Kyle Buchanan writes, "Did we miss the memo
that said the countercultural director of freaking Easy Rider was a
Republican? We'd assumed his appearance in the right-wing Zucker film
An American Carol was a strict paycheck gig…"
I'm not sure when the "memo" first went out, but Hopper has been a
registered Republican for over 25 years. This 2005 interview is the
most concise story that I could find on Hopper's "conversion" from,
as he puts it, being "probably as Left as you could get without being
a Communist," to believing in "the idea of less government, more
individual freedom" and voting "on the straight Republican ticket."
In that story, Hopper mentions palling around with then-Senator John
McCain, of whom he said, "That's the kind of guy I'd like to be
president." (Hopper has since flirted with supporting Obama, but if
he's attending the RNC I imagine that attraction has cooled off.)
Hopper is the living embodiment of that old adage about how if you're
not liberal at 20, you don't have a heart, and if you're not
conservative at 40, you don't have a brain (and those of us who are
socially liberal and fiscally conservative at 28 simply have no
candidate). That 2005 interview says Hopper is "still part of the
counterculture" because of his political beliefs, and that might be
true if you consider him alongside other aging 60s icons. But in
terms of that generation as a whole, simply moving from the far left
to the middle right with age doesn't make him much of an anomaly.
As far as An American Carol goes, the much fretted-over satire of
Michael Moore from newly converted "9/11 conservative" David Zucker,
Hopper's participation might still been motivated more by a paycheck
than by politics––after all, Paris Hilton's in the movie, too––but it
might be safe to assume that it was a small paycheck, considering
that the independently financed and distributed film has a reportedly
low budget, and Hopper is billed pretty far down on the cast list.
In terms of finding that perfect storm of the ideologically
defensible sell-out, Hopper's much-mocked side gig as an Amerprise
spokesmodel actually makes a kind of sense. In one of these ads,
Hopper even ties his former, Easy Rider-associated, counter-cultural
hero self to his paycheck-cashing, Republican-voting current incarnation.
All of the ads are set to a brightly-orchestrated version of the
Steve Winwood-penned hit "Gimme Some Lovin'," which was a hit for
Winwood and the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 (the year Hopper starred
in The Trip, the acid-sploitation flick scripted by Jack Nicholson
and directed by Roger Corman). In the "Flower Power" ad, Hopper
stands in a field of sunflowers in front of a Rider-reminiscent
Western backdrop. After telling us that those who say dreams "are
like delicate little flowers" are "WRONG!", there's a cut to Hopper
set far back in the field. "I want to make my own movie!" he says,
well, dreamily. The ad closes with Hopper intoning, "Flower power was
then. Your dreams are now." The message: the world in which he made
Easy Rider no longer exists. Grow up. Having money is no longer a
contemptible spoil of The Man––you ARE The Man. Oh, and start a
retirement portfolio with Ameriprise.
Hopper is the poster boy for the 60s cultural revolutionary who, when
"the drugs that were free suddenly weren't free anymore [and] the
party was over," put aside their youthful ideals and refocused their
big appetites on power, wealth and mainstream commercial consumption.
It's not surprising that this icon of the anti-establishment has come
over to the conservative side. What's surprising is that more stars
of his generation haven't likewise decided that fortunes are more
important to protect than hazy memories and followed him over.