Monday, January 5, 2009

Profiles of America's Beloved TV Celebrities (15): Dennis Hopper - Son of an OSS Spy - "Evolves" From Rebel to Republican/CIA-DoD TV Torture Revisited

Edited by Alex Constantine

" ... For most of my life I wasn't on the left. ... " - Dennis Hopper

" ... 'My father was in the OSS.
He was in China, Burma, India.' Now 69, the blue-eyed Hopper looks lean and fit, with his largely gray hair cut military-short. He sees the role of McNulty -- a real-estate magnate lured out of retirement to run special ops out of the Pentagon -- as a tribute of sorts to his father. ... "
October 26 12:02

LOS ANGELES ( Back in the 1960s, when Dennis Hopper was directing his counterculture classic "Easy Rider," he could never have imagined himself playing a colonel and former Green Beret, which he does on NBC's Wednesday military drama "E-Ring," produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

"People always say to me, 'Are you playing a bad guy?'" Hopper jokes, sitting in the living room of his industrial-modern house in Venice, Calif., an imposing corrugated-metal-sheathed structure filled with pieces from his large modern-art collection. "Somebody said the other night, '"From Easy Rider to E-Ring",' that should be the name of my autobiography.' It is a long way around."

But Hopper is still part of the counterculture -- only in liberal, Democratic Los Angeles, that means being a registered Republican.

"I've always been political," Hopper says, "but I haven't always been a Republican. I was with Martin Luther King [and] at the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. I was a hippie. I was probably as Left as you could get without being a Communist."

Asked what happened, Hopper says, "I read too much Thomas Jefferson and decided that every 25 years you needed to have a change if you're really going to have a republic, and the Democrats had been in power too long."

This was about the time that Ronald Reagan was campaigning for the 1980 presidential election.

"I never cared for Reagan, very honestly," Hopper says. "I thought he was a bad actor. I never thought he was a great communicator, didn't think he was a great speaker.

"But the idea of changing the Congress, changing the Senate, getting the Democrats out, getting the Republicans in, also the idea of having less government -- which didn't seem to work out."

What began as a philosophy of political change turned into a change of political philosophy.

"The idea of less government," Hopper says, "more individual freedom, is something that I liked. I started believing it. So I started voting. I voted that time for Reagan, and I've voted on the straight Republican ticket ever since. I don't go to meetings, I don't go to things. I just go to the polls and do it."

He adds, "I think I just made the natural curve. You've got to start one place and go all the way around."

Hopper has discovered that, while many in Los Angeles pride themselves on their tolerance, some things still ruffle their feathers.

"The controversy about me," Hopper says, "I don't think it's going to stop me. However, a lot of people treat me differently, and they do bring it up. I'll be at a dinner party, and somebody will say, 'Well, you couldn't be thinking that ...' And then you realize that everybody at the table is looking at you, and they're like, 'You're kidding! You're not really for Bush.' And it goes around the table.

"It can only stop me from eating, not working. I think my job with Bruckheimer and the Pentagon is secure at the moment, knock on wood."

The father of a flaxen-haired toddler daughter, Hopper has set aside his wild past for family life, golf and other pursuits.

"My today is totally different than my life was in the '60s," he says. "I would say, maybe my life isn't that different than it was in the '60s, but the '70s, I could have done without. The '70s were dark for me.

"The drugs that were free suddenly weren't free anymore. Everybody was addicted. The party was over. I used to do cocaine just to sober up so I could drink again. I wonder how I got out so lucky. It's amazing."

Now 69, the blue-eyed Hopper looks lean and fit, with his largely gray hair cut military-short. He sees the role of McNulty -- a real-estate magnate lured out of retirement to run special ops out of the Pentagon -- as a tribute of sorts to his father.

"I never was in the military," he says. "I was an age group that was between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and then the draft came. I was under contract to Warner Bros., and there was no war going on, so I did everything to get out, so I got out.

"But my father was in the OSS. He was in China, Burma, India. Anyway, I just felt, when I read the thing, this seems like a reasonable way to pay my dues."

Turns out McNulty has paid his dues as well, as revealed in an upcoming episode called "The Forgotten," currently set to air Wednesday, Nov. 23. According to Hopper, it's a story about a Navy SEAL believed dead and left behind for years in the Philippines.

The situation causes McNulty to reveal his past as a Vietnam POW who lost his wife, who believed he was dead, to another man. "I'm taking this personally," Hopper says.

Incidentally, Hopper reveals that he and a group of men had breakfast recently with Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former Vietnam POW whose name is often mentioned as a Republican candidate for president in 2008.

"We felt he could get some liberal help, some Democrats," Hopper says. "He said, 'I'm doing a lot of important things in the Senate right now. I'm not going to think about it until after the elections [in 2006].' He said also, 'I don't really think you can get that Democratic support to help me when they know that I'm pro-life.'

"He's so straightforward, so honest. That's the kind of guy I'd like to be president."
Dennis the Menace and More CIA Torture

"E-Ring," starring Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper, was canceled in its first season.

Hollywood pressured over torture portrayals
By Aamer Madhani | Washington Bureau,0,587019.story
July 12, 2008

WASHINGTON — Ken Robinson, an Army Special Forces intelligence officer turned Hollywood producer, was working on a short-lived Pentagon drama aptly titled "E-Ring" for a network when two of the show's writers stopped by his office to discuss the details of torture and other harsh interrogation methods.

The writers, Matthew Federman and Steve Scaia, seemed intent on accurately portraying torture on an episode of the TV show in which a Special Forces operator was captured by Lebanese militants.

While Robinson was pleased by the writers' desire to thoroughly research the topic, he was concerned that Federman and Scaia had a sanitized concept of some of the methods, including waterboarding, an interrogation technique that makes a prisoner believe he is in imminent danger of drowning.

"I asked them both: 'Do you really want to understand waterboarding?' " said Robinson, referring to the technique prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual. "And they go, 'Absolutely, we'd love to see it.' I go, 'Well, you know, seeing it is not going to really help you. But ... if you were waterboarded, I think you could write an excellent episode.' "

The two writers were game. Federman would be waterboarded; Scaia would take notes.

Robinson, who had been waterboarded five times as part of his military training, tied Federman to a board, forced water down his throat, and the writer said he felt the unmistakable sensation of drowning.

Torture on TV

Before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the portrayal of torture on network television was a rarity. But the moment piqued interest in Hollywood and led to dozens of television and movie story lines in which American heroes deal with uncooperative antagonists who hold critical information about an imminent attack.

By 2003, the first year of the war in Iraq, there were 228 instances in which torture was portrayed on network TV, according to Human Rights First, a civil liberties group that advocates governments banning torture.

Human Rights First last year launched a campaign to push Hollywood writers and producers away from portrayals of torture as a useful interrogation technique.

The group has distributed about 1,200 DVDs called "Primetime Torture" to educators and military trainers in which Robinson and other former military and intelligence officers say that torture is ineffective and immoral and can lead to receiving bad intelligence.

What would Bauer do?

The group's highest-profile target has been the Fox hit "24," a thriller in which protagonist Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, used torture—from staging a mock execution of a detainee's child to shocking a captive—at least 89 times in the show's first six seasons.

Army officials have met with the show's writers and producers to express concern that Bauer's methods are sending the wrong messages to service members.

The show is wildly popular among troops in Iraq. Other shows, such as "Alias," which have portrayed torture scenes that critics say are unrealistic, have also come under fire.

"The problem with the ticking time-bomb situation is that it's not real," said David Danzig, the director of Human Rights First's Primetime Torture project. "The problem with '24,' when we're rooting for Jack Bauer torturing the bad guy or when Hollywood shows waterboarding producing the result of the bad guy giving up good information that saves the day, is that gathering good intelligence doesn't work that way."

Democrats and the Bush administration have clashed over use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Earlier this year, CIA chief Michael Hayden acknowledged that the agency had waterboarded three high-level detainees—including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. After being waterboarded, Mohammed reportedly confessed to several ongoing plots.

The Bush administration has said waterboarding is a legal technique that could be used again under certain circumstances, such as the threat of imminent attack.

The tactic, however, has not been used in nearly five years, and it is not among the techniques approved for CIA interrogators, Hayden said in congressional testimony.

The waterboarding experience

In preparing the writers of "E-Ring" for waterboarding, Robinson first talked the two through a scenario of what it might be like to be captured and put through a rough interrogation.

Federman said as a result of subjecting himself to waterboarding, he and Scaia were able to write what they believed was a credible episode that didn't follow the usual narrative. The writers pointedly turned the paradigm on its head by having the U.S. soldier tortured by his captors. Federman's and Scaia's ultimate message: Harsh interrogation may get a detainee to talk, but the subject is just as likely to offer bad information to stop the torture as useful intelligence.

"It was frightening, but I didn't experience the full spectrum of the sheer terror because Ken was there and I knew he wasn't going to kill me or let something happen to me," Federman recalled in a telephone interview. "Still, it was a revealing experience. ... There is this torture chic in Hollywood — the bad guy won't talk, the good guy tortures him and the bad guy gives up all the information. In real life, it doesn't work that way."

The episode was a proud moment for Robinson, who has been a vociferous critic of the administration's defense of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Unfortunately, Robinson said, the episode never aired in the U.S. "E-Ring," starring Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper, was canceled in its first season.,0,587019.story

"Hopper was born in Dodge City, Kansas, the son of Marjorie Mae (née Davis) and Jay Millard Hopper. After the end of World War II, the family moved to Kansas City, Mo, where the young Hopper attended Saturday art classes at the Kansas City Art Institute taught by Thomas Hart Benton. At the age of 13, Hopper and his family moved to San Diego, where his mother worked as a lifeguard instructor and his father was a post office manager (Hopper has acknowledged, though, that his father was in the OSS, the precursor to the CIA) ... "

E-Ring: "There are five rings that comprise the Pentagon, but the most important one is the outer one, the E-ring.

"In this new series, created by David McKenna and Ken Robinson, and executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Benjamin Bratt portrays Major Jim Tinewski, new to the Pentagon, who brings fresh thinking and heart to the cold, calculating world of upper echelon military politics. His foils are Dennis Hopper as Col. McNulty and Aunjanue Ellis as Sgt Pierce. McNulty is, of course, crusty and has his own rebellious streak. Sgt Pierce is a humorless, uptight lifesaver who knows all the bureaucratic hoops and procedures that need to be met. Naturally, as it just so happens, Maj Tinewski's main squeeze works for the CIA and is able to unofficially give him feedback and advice, totally off the record and against her better judgment. Joe Morton (Terminator 2) shows up as Steven Algazi, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Ops. ... "

Hopper Plays CIA Drug Smuggler Barry Seal in Double Crossed (1991)

"Having seen this movie on HBO several years ago, I have searched to rent or buy it. Hopper is incredible as Barry Seal, fearless and overflowing with confidence as he negotiates his way through precarious situations on every side. Men will envy his guts, much like Al Pacino. I'm ordering it. It's worth the price of four or five rentals-really."
Campaign Contributions

Hopper, Dennis Mr.
Venice, CA 90291
Self-Employed/Actor REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE (R) - $2,000
primary 09/15/05

Hopper, Dennis Mr.
Venice, CA 90291
Self-Employed/Actor REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE (R) - $2,000
primary 08/24/04

... But How Much can a Man Take ...

Bush-Supporter Dennis Hopper Switches His Vote: "I Pray" Obama Wins

One of Hollywood's few Republicans has switched his vote. Dennis Hopper, 72, told reporters in France that he's praying for an Obama victory, despite decades as a Bush supporter.

"I voted for Bush, father and son, but this time I'll vote for Obama," he told journalists at the opening of a show on his life and work. I was the first person in my family to have been Republican. For most of my life I wasn't on the left. I pray God, Barack Obama is elected," he said, calling the current administration's many "lies.

1 comment:

A. Magnus Publius said...

Dennis Hopper seems to fit the definition of 'useful idiot' pretty well; anyone who fell for the Reaganite 'smaller government' marketing while the neoconservatives were busy expanding state power more than even LBJ did is either completely ignorant or brain dead.