As Dennis Hopper wages a bitter divorce battle from his death bed, The Daily Beast has obtained a copy of his wife’s legal filings, documenting his alleged gun threats, verbal abuse and drug use. Read the document here and her expense request here.
Two weeks ago, Dennis Hopper filed for divorce, shocking people who knew him and his wife, Victoria, not only because they’d made it 13 years, but because the actor is reportedly dying of cancer.
On Monday, Victoria answered his petition with one of her own, filed by her lawyers at Trope and Trope, the white-shoe firm that is also currently representing Elin Nordegren, the wife of golfer Tiger Woods.
In the document, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Victoria makes a series of explosive allegations, including charges that her husband threatened to kill her on multiple occasions and kept loaded guns in the house, which he occasionally came close to using.
"In 2009," the declaration reads, "I discovered a pistol with multiple rounds of ammunition in Petitioner's bedroom drawer. The gun and ammunition was unsecure and easily accessible, including to Galen [Victoria and Dennis' six year old daughter]. I also located a loaded shotgun, unsecure, in our bedroom closet. I told Petitioner to remove the guns from our home. Petitioner agreed. I immediately moved the guns to a secure temporary location and later had them removed by a police officer."
This followed another incident in which she claims Hopper told her that if she divorced him, “Something bad is going to happen to you and you won't see it coming.”
In addition to the threats, Victoria claims that the whole marriage dissolution is not Hopper’s desire at all, but rather “a result of estate planning by other family members” who presumably want her cut off financially. Hopper, she says, told her “he does not want to divorce” and “that other people are insisting he take care of them upon his death.”
Victoria calls out one of these family members specifically several times in the document: Hopper’s 47-year-old daughter, Marin, who has been living in a wing of her father’s Venice compound for more than two years.
Financially, Victoria claims she needs Hopper’s support. “While I have attempted to work at various careers throughout our marriage, Petitioner has discouraged and prevented me from doing so.” She says she signed their jointly filed 2008 tax return and that their total income was stated as over $1.2 million, and that Hopper has a $1 million life insurance policy. She wants the court to order that she and Galen be named as equal beneficiaries of that policy. “Based on Petitioner’s statements to me that he will leave me destitute and because I do not have a steady or significant source of income, I fear I will be unable to financially provide for our six year old daughter and myself.”
She also charges that Hopper is a habitual pot smoker and got high in front of their child. "Petitioner has in recent months used marijuana in Galen’s presence. I request the Court order Petitioner to refrain from use of marijuana and any nonprescription drugs 12 hours before and during any time he spends with Galen."
Of course, the idea that Dennis Hopper still does some drugs is not exactly shocking, particularly given the current state of his health and the laws about medical marijuana in California. Nor is the idea that he has a temper, though some close to the actor think Victoria is using his checkered history to gain the upper hand. Moreover, while Hopper has been accused over the years of assaulting numerous women in his life, Victoria has denied even to her closest friends that Dennis ever hit her or physically abused her.
But they do say that as his illness worsened, the marriage began to fray, in part because he became so cruel to his wife. “Dennis has misdirected all his rage and fear onto Victoria,” is how one close friend of the couple puts it. Says another: “He’s angry about his health and he’s taking it out on her.”
Since he became a big star with Easy Rider in 1969, Hopper has been known for playing men who are a little unhinged. From the drug-addled biker in his breakthrough film and the tortured Vietnam veteran at the center of Tracks, to the psychopath in Blue Velvet and the maniacal terrorist in Speed, the characters he’s portrayed have often been outsiders—angry, manic, and fighting against a world they can’t control and don’t quite fit into.
Hopper’s off-screen life was frequently similar, with periods of serious drug and alcohol abuse, and cantankerous unions with women like Brooke Hayward and Michelle Phillips, with whom his 1970 marriage lasted all of eight days.
In the 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, entertainment industry chronicler Peter Biskind wrote of a number of alleged incidents involving Hopper and the women in his life. Among the things Hopper is accused of are breaking Hayward’s nose, jumping on the hood of her car and smashing her windshield, and throwing a flaming mattress out of a window of a hotel room he was staying in with ex-girlfriend, Caterine Milinaire. According to a Los Angeles Times review of the book, she reportedly emerged the next day with a black eye.
Click Below to View Dennis Hopper’s Gallery of ‘60s Art Icons
In the mid-‘70s, a friend went to visit Hopper at a home he had in Taos, New Mexico, and recalls seeing guns and hearing the actor talk about fights he’d been getting into. “It was this strange feeling of walking into a universe that was like Easy Rider,” the person says. “It was really scary. The whole thing was sort of hippie-ish with a touch of Waco. Has he ever played an adorable nice person you run to if you’re in trouble?”
At one point, Hopper later told the Guardian, he was consuming half a gallon of rum all day, while shooting speedballs (heroin and cocaine).
Still, his ties to the art world and a savvy collecting streak have—perhaps even more than his acting—made him a rich man. He is reported to have bought one of the first Warhol Campbell’s Soup Can paintings for $75; it’s now worth several million. Other artists whose works he bought that have ascended significantly in value are Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Ed Ruscha, and Frank Gehry. (Hopper also has had a fairly significant side career of his own as an artist and photographer.)
And by the ‘90s, Hopper had largely cleaned up his act and was finding a lot of work in Hollywood (though he still got cast as an awful lot of psychopaths.) He became involved with Victoria, then 24, who met him while she working at a diner that he was eating at. Friends noted the age difference between them, but Hopper had held up nicely. “He was always sexy,” says one of the couple’s friends in L.A. “He always looks good.”
From the outside, at least, the marriage looked happy.
Around two and a half years ago, Hopper’s daughter Marin broke up with her husband, and moved back to his enormous Venice compound with her young child. Marin and Victoria, by all accounts, did not have an easy relationship. But she was extremely close to her father. “Marin was definitely his eyes and ears,” says one friend of Hopper’s, who is fond of all of the parties. “He could trust her. In a weird way, she was the second wife. Plus, the actual wife was younger than her, and that’s got to be weird.”
In recent weeks, Marin has been painted as the wedge between Dennis and Victoria. (This was the thrust of a recent Huffington Post piece, which first brought to light some of the allegations about guns and threatening behavior.)
Meanwhile, Victoria, whose power had always been as Mrs. Dennis Hopper, began to find her own footing in Hollywood. During the presidential election of 2008, she was swept into a whirl of Democratic politics, becoming heavily involved in Obama’s campaign in Califonia. Hopper had actually been a Republican—a libertarian, really, with a thing for gun collecting. But he’d come to the conclusion that Bush had screwed things up, and so he endorsed Obama and (at least publicly) supported his wife.
But privately, several people close to Victoria corroborate her claim that her husband discouraged her from having a career in politics (or anything else).
They also say that when she went on business trips related to her political work, she was shocked to find that he had cut off her credit cards, leaving her with no way of paying hotel bills. Meanwhile, Victoria was said to be growing concerned about her financial future; while Dennis has a large art collection worth a substantial amount of money, he was also getting sicker and had a fair amount of debt.
Also, they say, he was anything but open with Victoria about their financial state. They say that when she broached the topic of her own professional ambitions, pointing out that he might not be around forever and that she was concerned for her future, he said things to the effect of “That’s not my concern.”
In the midst of all this was a man whom Victoria grew close to during the election, who listened to her and was encouraging of her having a career.
As the fighting between them got worse, friends advised Victoria to her leave her husband. She refused. “Her attitude was that Dennis was sick and when someone’s sick, you don’t leave them,” says one sympathetic girlfriend of Victoria’s, who’s been a confidante throughout the stormier years of the marriage.
And there was Marin’s presence at the Hopper compound, which also didn’t make things easier.
Still, the idea that Marin was dragging Hopper’s virtual corpse through a divorce he was mentally incapable of navigating also doesn’t entirely ring true.
Over the past few weeks, friends of Dennis’ have painted a picture of Victoria as an arriviste and golddigger, a former waitress with a penchant for designer clothes and a sizeble trust fund with perks that included a horse stable and credit cards with large amounts of money on them. Unquestionably, Victoria was well dressed. But friends of hers say that most of what she bought was either on sale in stores or was bought online through web sites that sell luxury goods at bargain-basement prices. Other things were borrowed from friends who worked at the fashion houses, and were returned after press appearances. “She ran that household extremely frugally,” one friend says. They point out that she’s on the board of the center for American Progress, that her father is a neurologist who teaches at Harvard and her mother is a psychologist. “She was working at a restaurant 19 years ago. What were you doing 19 years ago?” says another friend. As for the stable, while it’s in a nice area, two other friends say it’s “tiny” and was used mainly as an office for her political work. And they say that when she went away, it was rarely swanky. “Never once did she fly anything but coach,” says one close friend. “She is not anything like the person she’s being portrayed as.”
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.