It’s rare when two non-conformist artists, rebels and icons – representing two different American generations – engage in a freewheeling on-screen conversation; it’s rarer still when one (Orson Welles) is a maverick trailblazer who’d made his monumental debut with Citizen Kane and had just returned after a decade-long exile in Europe, while the other (Dennis Hopper) had become the devillish face of New Hollywood and counterculture movement with his smashing directorial debut Easy Rider a year back. Shot over a booze-fuelled session in 1970 at Welles’ Beverly Hills home – finally restored a whopping 5 decades later – Hopper/Welles was made in the form of an interview; hence, possibly, the tad derivative – if posthumously provided – title, referencing the likes of Frost/Nixon and Hitchcock/Truffaut. Welles – offscreen, articulate, razor-sharp, sardonic and pugnacious –, and Hopper – rambling, disarming and guarded, while chain-smoking and drinking gin-and-tonic – engaged in a fascinating chat covering a multitude of topics, including cinema, filmmaking, news, television, politics, rebelliousness and the American military-industrial complex; and the more Welles grilled Hopper into revealing his left-wing opinions, the more Hopper – visibly in awe of Welles’ towering personality – became self-deprecatory and fidgety since he was being regularly hounded by the FBI. These were filmed with an avant-garde touch, what with the grainy B/W photography, improvisational structure, jerky close-ups, low artificial lighting and the crew freely sauntering around. Welles’ just-underway passion project The Other Side of the Wind – Hopper often chucklingly called him Jake, his protagonist’s name there – which too finally released in 2019, would also deliciously focus on two hugely contrasting filmmakers, while Hopper was then editing The Last Movie which would bomb commercially –; these aspects, on hindsight, added absorbing layers to this interview here.
Director: Orson Welles