Awful accusations–especially those concerning pedigreed children of beloved Hollywood icons–spread like viral wildfire. So it went Tuesday when word detonated across the Web that Henry Hopper, the Adonis-handsome 21-year-old son of ’60s counter-culture icon Dennis Hopper, has been accused of raping an underage girl.
According to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ, Hopper allegedly engaged in “sexually offensive conduct” with, reportedly, an unnamed 15-year-old girl, including forced oral copulation, sexual intercourse, and sodomy. The girl’s mother (who filed the suit) claims Hopper invited the young woman to his Venice, Calif., home and plied her with drugs and alcohol, “taking advantage of her youth and vulnerability.”
While Hopper, costar of Gus Van Sant’s 2011 oddball movie romance Restless, has yet to speak out, even Hollywood’s most seasoned celeb watchers have been left scratching their heads. Who is Henry Hopper? And given his scant résumé as an actor, his deliberate evasion of the spotlight and resulting mystique, precisely how out of character is this kind of behavior for Dennis Hopper’s son? (Police sources told The Daily Beast they have no record of an investigation involving Hopper at this time. Hopper’s representative did not return a call to comment.)
The actor’s rise out of obscurity and into pop consciousness reads like the story of a side character in Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero. As a young teen, Hopper enrolled in weekend acting classes at Los Angeles’s Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute and by age 16 had been scouted by an agent. From there, he spent a few years shunning various film and television offers. “I ended up saying no to a lot of things because there aren’t that many inspiring parts for young people,” Hopper told Interview magazine. “We often get squandered, doing stuff like Disney Channel and all that bullshit.”
The native Angeleno (whose mother is Dennis Hopper’s fourth wife, actress Katherine LaNasa) matriculated at the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied sculpture and painting–with a minor in skinny dipping in the CalArts pool–but dropped out after a year, traveling to the bohemian mecca of Berlin where Hopper shot films, lived in an artists’ collective, and continued to create artwork.
Director Gus Van Sant is renowned for cherry-picking young up-and-comers such as River Phoenix and Heather Graham to star in his films. He heard about Hopper, then 18, from a casting director, and convinced the unknown to travel from Germany to Los Angeles for an audition. Even then, Hopper’s ambivalence about following in his famous father’s footsteps was evident. “I don’t think he really wanted to do [the audition],” Van Sant recalled at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Nonetheless, he cast Hopper as Enoch Brae, a morbid yet quirky teen who plays Battleship with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot, crashes funerals, and falls in love with Mia Wasikowska’s terminally ill character. And the role almost immediately put Hopper’s career on the fast track with the Hollywood entertainment website the Wrap proclaiming the newcomer one of the “discoveries” at Cannes that year.
Part of Hopper’s ability to hold the screen comes in no small part from his unmistakable resemblance to his father—a screen legend who proudly let his freak flag fly as one of the edgiest actors of the ’60s and ’70s, turning in indelible performances in such movie classics as Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now (as well as journeyman character-actor performances in director David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and as the villain in Speed). The elder Hopper, infamous for his voracious consumption of booze and drugs, who kept a loaded arsenal of guns in his house until the day he died, passed away in 2009 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Henry, for his part, threw himself into filming Restless as a means of coping with his grief.
“I think of Restless as a very special film, it’s a tool for what I was going through,” Hopper said in Cannes. “It was an incredible tool at that time of my life when I was asking myself those questions—some spiritual things, which ended up really being in connection with the earth and nature. There were interesting parallels. I feel passionately about the film—it does justice to that experience [of death].”
Although Hopper is set to make his next big-screen appearance opposite James Franco and Mila Kunis in the upcoming drama Tar, a biopic about the poet C.K. Williams, earlier this year, Hopper received his first blush of tabloid notoriety when he was photographed fetching Grey Goose vodka and Red Bulls from a Venice Beach liquor store with Lindsay Lohan. “Lindsay’s been in here before. And today she brings in this young guy and they were all touchy-feely and they kissed on the lips a couple of times,” a liquor-store employee told the paparazzi agency X17.
The mother of the alleged victim says in the lawsuit that the young woman suffered significant injuries to her emotional health, according to TMZ, and her treatment required the employ of “multiple mental health care professionals.” She is suing for unspecified damages.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told The Daily Beast her office has not been contacted by the local police regarding Hopper. “We haven’t been presented a case,” Gibbons said. “We have not been contacted by the LAPD at all.”
Christine Pelisek contributed reporting to this story.