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CANNES FUTURES | Dennis Hopper’s Son Henry Takes the Lead in Gus Van Sant’s “Restless”

CANNES FUTURES | Dennis Hopper's Son Henry Takes the Lead in Gus Van Sant's "Restless"

Age: 20
Hometown: Venice, CA

Fun Facts: Son of late actor Dennis Hopper and Katherine LaNasa; “Restless” is his first acting gig. He studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute.

Why He’s On Our Radar: Anyone who lands a leading role in a film by a veteran filmmaker, such as Gus Van Sant, is bound to garner attention. Certainly his pedigree helped him in getting his foot in the door, but Henry Hopper still had to deliver the goods and more than holds his own “Restless.”

More About Him: Hopper took on Van Sant’s “Restless” after the script came his way and he felt an immediate attachment to the broodish character Enoch. Similar to his father who was a filmmaker, actor and fine artist, Hopper has a creative instinct. He’s taken on writing, painting and music since childhood. “Restless” is his first professional acting job.

In the film, Hooper’s character is a loner who crashes funerals and is in the company of a ghost friend (never quite sure if it’s imaginary or “real”) who was a World War II Kamikaze pilot. Enoch lost his parents in a car accident at a young age and never came to terms with their sudden departure, transforming him into a loner. While attending yet another funeral of a stranger, Enoch happens upon Annabel (played by the lovely Mia Wasikowska) who also lives life outside the conventional realm of most teens. For her, life consists on an obsession with Charles Darwin and a keen interest in how the Earth’s creatures live.

At first, Enoch resists Annabel’s friendly advances, preferring to remain hidden in his shell, but her passion eventually charms him and he slowly opens up. After learning that she has a terminal illness, the two quietly form an intense bond, with Enoch coming to terms with his parents’ death by nurturing Annabel. But their bond also conjures up new frustration as the end nears.

indieWIRE met up with Henry Hopper in Cannes following the world premiere of “Restless,” which opened Un Certain Regard last week. Hopper said that though this was his first time in Cannes with a project, he had memories of coming here as a child and riding on the merry-go-round which is located just adjacent to the main Palais des Festivals – home to the nightly red carpet events.

Before diving into his role as Enoch Brae in “Restless,” Hopper recalled fond memories of riding this “absurd contraption,” as he described it, and likened the experience to life and Cannes itself. “You pick up and go in a circle and get off. It’s like life or the spin of a film. There’s no other place on earth like this place, which elevates the art of cinema – and the French seem to understand that more than others I think…”

indieWIRE Asks: What attracted you to this story?

I think it was a mixture of things. I resisted acting for a long time because I couldn’t stand to see the scripts I was seeing. The way young people are framed in some of these scenarios are absurd and not reflective of our experience. Gus has an unparalleled vision and an understanding of youth or adolescence or whatever you want to call it – being in that period where things are loosely scattered but there’s not written form.

What brought me in out of the shadows was: I read the script, closed the script and I wept and I didn’t have a doubt in my mind whether I was going to do it. I knew I was going to do it. Whenever I think I shouldn’t do something and have a lot of questions about it I hesitate, but when I go with my gut feeling, I have no doubt.

Were you intimidated to take on a lead role for your first gig?

No, not at all. I have a strong desire in my life to create. I’m a receiver. I receive emotions. When you’re super, super, super, super receptive to emotion, you have to create a vessel to contain it and this film was that vessel for me. “Restless” was a great way for me to self express. I think Cannes can be a bit more intimidating than doing a film. [The festival] is about the work, but it can be a struggle here to bring it back to the work because it’s such a spectacle.

At the base, “Restless” is a love story between two attractive people, but how is this story even more than a love story from your point of view?

Well, I certainly hope we’re attractive (laughs). There have been times in my life I’ve been in love. Those moments were resonating to me. And in the relationship here between Enoch and Annabel, you see it go from start to finish – beginning to end in the course of this story. It’s interesting to see the entirety of this relationship. Their struggles are pointless. We should just love each other and that is what matters.

The reason it resonated so much for me was that you can tell someone that it’s a love story, but it can be a life lesson also. It’s fiction, but it’s something that can be a life lesson – something that can reflect off ourselves. I feel this film is very compassionate and very nurturing. It’s been nurturing for me and others around me.

There are people who have lost something and have a different understanding of life beyond materialism for instance. With Enoch, he objectifies death and then she is right there. It’s not like he finds a god or something, but she helps him transcend his [obsession] over death. He never got to say good bye to his parents, so there was no closure. She helps him put everything together. Her philosophy is an understanding about the cyclical role of life and her place in it. And the movie is so much about love and an unconditional love. To be in love with someone for who they are and not what they are. And when they pass, that love stays…

I read that in the lead up to production, you rehearsed each scene in silence in order to concentrate on movement and expression.

We had about two weeks of rehearsals. We shot every take with a silent version of that take and Gus has cut together and hour and fifteen minute version of this film as an accompaniment. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure it’s really interesting…

Going forward, what sort of roles will you be looking for?

Film is a ritual for me. What I find most interesting for me about Enoch is that he’s not an image of a movie star type role. He’s a human being with real human feelings. What resonates for me is a character that does justice to the spirit.

This film has been therapeutic for me and even beyond with my family. And even this conversation really is therapeutic. I want to be able to be vulnerable and expose myself. It’s what I feel I should do and am meant to do – to just lay it out there. It’s hard when you’re feeling a strong set of emotions to just keep it in there and there needs to be a way to channel it.

I’m interested in finding characters at this point that might be completely different from me, because Enoch is probably a bit too close to me – a little too much like me at this point. And I’d like to take on something totally transformative. And I think that would be really rewarding.

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