Keanu Reeves has recently been bringing in big box office bucks from the John Wick franchise. Hitting superstardom in 1994 with the action flick Speed, Reeves had his second opportunity to work with actor Dennis Hopper.
Starting his onscreen journey in the 80s, Reeves and Hopper both had roles in this edgy film that earned a cult following.
Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper co-starred in ‘River’s Edge’
The 1986 film River’s Edge depicts a group of aimless teenagers who discover their friend has murdered his girlfriend. Exhibiting pure apathy at seeing the girl’s corpse and discussing how to dispose of the body, the teens represented a clique very different from the groups featured in 80s films like Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire.
Starring Crispin Glover, Ioni Skye, Roxana Zal, and Hopper, River’s Edge was one of Reeves’ earliest films. The actor didn’t have an agent at the time, but made a marked impression on the movie’s producers.
“When [Keanu Reeves] came in, he hadn’t done anything and wasn’t being represented by anybody,” casting director Carrie Frazier recalled in 2017 to Vice. “He was what’s called a hip-pocket client, meaning they didn’t know if they wanted to sign him—they were just testing him out. He walked in the door, and I went, ‘Oh my god, this is my guy!’”
Frazier knew instantly that Reeves would be an asset to the ensemble cast and gave him the role of Matt.
“It was just because of the way he held his body,” Frazier remarked. “His shoes were untied, and what he was wearing looked like a young person growing into being a man. I was over the moon about him.”
Dennis Hopper was cast after other actors passed on ‘River’s Edge’
Harry Dean Stanton was originally approached for the role of Feck in River’s Edge, a pot dealer and ex-biker. When Stanton and another top actor turned down the part due to the disturbing content of the film, director Tim Hunter went to Hopper.
“I initially hoped that John Lithgow would play it, but it was too dark for John—he wanted no part of it,” Hunter revealed. “We had some reluctance that it might be typecasting for Dennis, but ultimately we wanted him very badly.”
Hunter raved of Hopper’s accessibility to the young cast members of River’s Edge, noting that the actor was trying to get his life on the right track.
“Hopper was wonderful,” the director said. “He’d just cleaned up his act and was very proud of it. He made himself available to all of those kids—who idolized him—and he rehearsed with them extensively. It was a really good experience.”
Keanu Reeves called working with Dennis Hopper ‘one of the highlights of my life’
In a 2014 conversation on Reddit, Reeves talked about collaborating with Hopper on the 1986 movie and again in Speed.
“I got to know him over the years,” Reeves explained, according to E! Online. “I’d first worked with Dennis on a film called River’s Edge, and it was cool to see him again while we were making Speed.”
The John Wick star looked back fondly on his time with Hopper and considered their work together as one of his most memorable experiences.
“Something that I thought I would never do in my life was have a fight scene with Dennis Hopper on top of a subway car!” Reeves shared. “He had such a wonderful intelligence and sense of humor. So the chance to spend time with him was one of the highlights of my life.”
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