Kickstarter Campaign Launched to Finish Dennis Hopper's Last Film (Exclusive)

Dennis Hopper - 2008 - H

Collaborators on his last movie, 'The Last Film Festival,' hope to raise $90,000 to finish and release the film.

When Dennis Hopper’s prostate cancer recurred five years ago, he died abruptly at 74, just before post-production of his last movie, a fond satire of the industry called The Last Film Festival.

But on March 10, writer/director Linda Yellen launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the last $90,000 she needs to finish the film. 

Yellen, who began as a film critic earning $25 per review at The Hollywood Reporter, earned a third-place award at the New York Film Festival, up against George LucasTHX 1138 and Martin Scorsese’s Italian American, and directed 12 films and TV hits Playing for Time and The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana.

Yellen’s projects earned two Peabodys and seven Emmys and took her to Cannes, Toronto and Sundance, where she met Hopper in 2008 and instantly sold him on a comedy about failure and humiliation, filmed in 2009.

“Dennis plays Nick Twain, a once legendary producer who now has the biggest flop on his hands,” says Yellen. “In a way it’s Birdman, isn’t it? An eternal story. He’s gotta rally the troops in this small town that thinks it should have a film festival, the O’Hi Film Festival — the only one who would have him with his flop — and use his gamesmanship and producer knowledge to turn around his failing career. It’s about all the weird characters that come together in a kind of dysfunctional family to make a movie, you know? A little like Day for Night — and we have Jackie Bisset from that film playing Dennis’ ex-wife, a diva with a lot of demands and ego.”

For pledges starting at $1, backers will win memorabilia including signed scripts, invitations to the premiere, and dinner with Bisset. Joseph Cross, JoBeth Williams, Katrina Bowden, Chris Kattan, Leelee Sobieski, and Donnell Rawlings also star. 

Most of the $90,000 will pay for clips of Twain’s illustrious past work. “Real films that somebody else directed, which will make you go ‘Wow!’ ” says Yellen, who was also wowed by the Hollywood stories Hopper relates in the movie. “The stories are fantastic, and true, only he makes them in some cases about himself.” One of Hopper’s tales involves Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood’s sexual roundelay with director Nicholas Ray, James Dean, and Hopper as “sloppy thirds," though Yellen won't say which tales wind up in her film.

“When I told Dennis about his character, he said, ‘If you write it, I’ll do it. You can make him’ — excuse my language, it’s what Dennis said — ‘You can make him a cocksucker, a crook, whatever, just make sure he’s a guy who loves movies.’ Basically it was a chance to have fun and poke fun at an industry you love and like it despite all its faults and foibles.”

Though there’s been much interest in The Last Film Festival, some offers came with unacceptable demands: cutting scenes, changing the film’s score, even changing Hopper’s voice. Progress on the film was also delayed by less lovable Hollywood dysfunction. “All these horrible sleazy people came out of the woodwork who wanted to capitalize on his death, the bottom feeders of the business,” says Yellen. “And there’s an attitude, oh, he’s dead, who wants to see his movie? Well, say that to Humphrey Bogart fans, or Spencer Tracy fans, or Dennis Hopper fans. And then there are people in the movie who are very much alive with burgeoning careers."

Yellen says the five-year production gave her a chance to develop the film (and figure out a way to trim a plotline that Hopper had wanted to add because he liked the rough cut and wanted to expand the film, but he died before a shooting window opened up). “It wasn’t something to be rushed. I certainly wasn’t going to cut corners at this point in my life to capitalize on a friend’s death. It had to be done right. We worked very hard, quietly, almost stealthily finishing the film in every way we could — borrowing editing facilities from a friend — except things that simply require money, like clip rights. And that’s the stage of finishing we’re at.”

“There are twists and turns in the story that I think pay off well and leave you laughing,” she says. “And of course somewhat bittersweet because he’s there laughing onscreen.”