Dennis Hopper, who died Saturday at 74, is best-remembered as the director and co-star of the 1969 iconic counterculture film “Easy Rider.” Sports film enthusiasts of course remember him in a 1986 role as the alcoholic assistant coach in “Hoosiers,” for which he got a supporting actor Oscar nomination. But I think his best work was in a series of NFL/Nike ads in the mid-1990s.
Easily available for viewing via the Internet, Hopper plays a middle-aged obsessed NFL fan who may or may not have gone one toke over the line.
What makes the ads so funny, and so memorable, is Hopper’s ability to be simultaneously dramatic and comedic, and his willingness to poke good-natured (and well-paying) fun at his own persona.
In one ad, he builds a replica of San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium out of sand as he sings heroic praise to Junior Seau — who then runs through Hopper’s creation.
In another ad, the Hopper character crashes the security gate at a Packers practice because he just has to pay homage to Sterling Sharpe.
And in another ad, Hopper is standing in the Buffalo Bills locker room, where he takes a cleat from Bruce Smith’s locker, admires it, and then tells us that while Smith wears this shoe he does “bad things, man … bad things,” as we see clips of the defensive end wreaking havoc on an opposing offense.
Dennis Hopper, rest in peace.