Dennis Hopper looks at six of his own key roles. Reflections on ''Rebel,'' ''Easy Rider,'' ''Hoosiers'' and more

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
”[James Dean] was the most exciting actor I’d ever seen, and I became his protégé,” says Dennis Hopper. ”He told me once that you could play Hamlet standing on your hands, eating a carrot, so long as the audience could see your eyes every once in a while and know you were telling the truth.”

Easy Rider (1969)
”We’d gone through the whole ’60s and nobody had made a film about anybody smoking grass without going out and killing a bunch of nurses. I wanted Easy Rider to be a time capsule for people about that period.” Of costar and co-writer Peter Fonda: ”We don’t speak. Too much has happened.”

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Hopper delivered one of screen history’s most mesmerizing depictions of stark raving lunacy. ”There was no f—ing script,” he says. ”The process we went through to get to the end of that movie was unbelievable. We all became animalized. It just turned into this insanity.”

Blue Velvet (1986)
”I was advised by my manager at the time not to do [David Lynch’s] Blue Velvet,” says Hopper. ”He thought there were no redeeming qualities to the character. I said, ‘Well, there’s one redeeming quality and that’s that everybody who’s interested in film will have to see this movie.”’

Hoosiers (1986)
Hopper earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his turn as an alcoholic high school basketball coach. ”I had just gotten sober, so I had a lot to draw on. It was such an emotionally powerful movie. To this day, when sports teams get down in their morale their coaches play it for them as inspiration.”

Speed (1994)
Hopper’s performance as the mad bus bomber who taunts cop Keanu Reeves (”Pop quiz, hotshot!”) reinforced his status as one of Hollywood’s go-to bad guys. ”Once I got on the set I realized Jan [De Bont] was making a hell of a movie. It had so much energy. It was like a big roller-coaster ride.”