Sixties hellraiser Dennis Hopper went in search of America in Easy Rider. Now he is defending it in George A Romero's fourth zombie flick Land Of The Dead. With such credits as Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet to his name, the writer, director and actor has now become Hollywood's favourite bad guy thanks to his snarly turns in Speed and The Postman. Never busier and still as spiky at 69 years of age, it's not just the undead who should be afraid.
Tell us about your character in Land of the Dead.
I play the man that has built a safe world for his people and they live a very opulent life inside what he calls The Green; it's a safe zone. The zombies and the underprivileged live outside his domed world, and they're beginning to reason and communicate, and they're obviously a threat. So he seems to be a very benevolent dictator but he's actually very vicious and will keep it at any cost.
Did someone in particular inspire your performance?
You mean did I copy anyone? Did I have any political undertones? No. I just played the character.
Easy Rider came out soon after Night Of The Living Dead and the films' critiques of America were put in the same box by critics. Were you a fan of Romero's film at the time?
They were very much metaphors about how we saw our society at that time. We were looking with the same eyes but we were talking about it in a different way. Today, I think that probably... you know, this is George Romero's movie and I came in and just played the part. The politics of this movie, if one sees them, are not necessarily my politics. I just want to make that clear.
How do you differ politically now?
People have called my character Rumsfeldian. The character I play in this is a very evil person. I do not see Donald Rumsfeld as an evil man. I just want to make that clear. I see him as a very hard working man, with a very hard job, and doing the best job he can. I live in a very open society where it's OK to disagree. My wife's a Democrat, I'm a Republican; we do not have fights in my house about politics. She raised over a million dollars for Kerry and I sat quietly as a silent majority. I used to go down and have parties for them in my house, and I'm a Republican! I voted for Bush's father and I voted for Bush. It's OK in my country to be like that. So that's the way it is.
There has been constant rumours about an Easy Rider sequel. Do you know anything about this?
I think that they're trying to do it now. They're doing it without me. I think that Peter [Fonda] may be involved. Peter and I have not spoken in a few years. I had to sue Peter to be paid for Easy Rider. We had a falling out before we started shooting principle photography for Easy Rider and never really got back together. But I made him look very good in that movie and I'm proud of the job he did. But no, I'm not involved. Unfortunately, I don't own the movie and I don't own the rights to make a sequel, even though I wrote the film.
Did you have an idea for a sequel?
I had a great sequel but they're not doing the one I thought of.
What was it like?
Oh, you don't want to get me telling you about a movie I'm never going to make, do you?
Land Of The Dead is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd September 2005.