1970 - 1979
The financial success of Easy Rider opened opportunities for young filmmakers. Universal Pictures hired five “young genius” directors, including Hopper, who, in 1970, revisited The Last Movie and began filming in Chinchero, Peru.
The film would examine the process of Hollywood filmmaking and its effects on the natives of Peru as they observed the filmmaking process. The film was finished under budget and on schedule. Moving to Taos, New Mexico, Hopper purchased a house that belonged to Mabel Dodge Luhan, caretaker of D.H. Lawrence. Here Hopper began editing The Last Movie.
During this period, Hopper married Michelle Phillips, who appeared in the film’s thirty-minute-long pre-credit sequence (the longest in Hollywood film history) with many other young actors, including Dean Stockwell, Jim Mitchum, Russ Tamblyn, John Phillip Law, Kris Kristofferson, and Peter Fonda. The marriage lasted only eight days. During editing of The Last Movie, Lawrence Schiller and L. M. Kit Carson came to Taos to shoot a documentary film on Hopper, The American Dreamer, written by Schiller, Carson, and Hopper himself. In 1971, Hopper purchased El Cortez Movie Theater in Ranchos de Taos. The theater served as a screening room as well as a space for showing free cartoons to community children on the weekends. Hopper also opened a gallery, Dennis Hopper Works of Art, with the purpose of introducing various artists to the Taos community. One day Georgia O’Keeffe visited Hopper’s house after hearing of the reputation of the man who had purchased the house of Mabel Dodge Luhan.
Though The Last Movie won the prestigious C.I.D.A.L.C. Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1971, the result was never announced, and Universal Pictures refused to distribute the film unless Hopper would agree to re-edit it. Hopper declined, and the film was effectively shelved. Later, Hopper was able to arrange for a television release of the film under the title Chinchero.
Hopper married Daria Halprin in 1972, and the couple returned to Taos, where Hopper’s second daughter Ruthanna was born the following year. Although he had suspended his artistic activities outside of filmmaking, Hopper was represented in several exhibitions during the early 1970s: Survey of the Sixties (1970), an exhibition of two hundred photographs at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy; Dennis Hopper: Black and White Photographs (1970), a solo exhibition organized by Henry T. Hopkins for the Fort Worth Art Center Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Denver Art Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado; and Dennis Hopper: Black and White Photographs from the 1960s (1971), an exhibition of photographs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Following his Washington, D.C. exhibition at Corcoran Gallery, Hopper left thousands of negatives produced between 1961 and 1967 in the custody of Hopkins, who was responsible for ensuring their survival through the troublesome 1970s. During the 1970s, Hopper continued to collaborate with a number of significant artists. In 1971, Andy Warhol made a portrait of Dennis Hopper in The Last Movie. A year later, Warhol and Hopper worked together on MAO (1972), a silkscreen on paper produced by Warhol. Hopper shot two bullets in the finished work. In 1967, Bruce Conner had wanted to exhibit a series of collages at the James Willis Gallery, San Francisco, as The Dennis Hopper One Man Show; due to differences between Conner and Willis, the exhibition was not realized. Later, in 1973, Conner published a series of etchings based on the original collages, and this show did take place at both the James Willis Gallery and the Texas Gallery in Houston under the title The Dennis Hopper One Man Show.
Hopper also acted in many films throughout the 1970s, including Kid Blue by James Frawley, Tracks by Henry Jaglom, Mad Dog Morgan by Philippe Mora, and The American Friend by Wim Wenders. One of his costars in The American Friend was his longtime friend, Nicholas Ray, who had cast Hopper in Rebel without a Cause years earlier. In 1976, Hopper flew to Pagsanjan, Philippines, for the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now, an opportunity to work with Marlon Brando. Hopper was widely praised for his performance as a photojournalist when the film was released in 1979 after three years of production.