His career as an actor began in an episode of Richard Boone television series Medic in 1955, portraying a young epileptic. During the same year, he was cast with James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, and a year later he worked alongside Dean again in Giant.
He then played supporting roles in The Sons of Katie Elder and True Grit, which both starred John Wayne. Hopper's big break came when he co-wrote, directed and starred in cult movie Easy Rider in 1969, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for 'Best Original Screenplay'.
After a quiet period during the 1970s, Hopper won attention for Apocalypse Now in 1979, and garnered another Oscar nomination for 'Best Supporting Actor' in 1986 basketball film Hoosiers. He then gave critically-acclaimed performances in Rumble Fish and The Osterman Weekend in 1983.
More recently, he was nominated for an Emmy for the 1991 HBO films Paris Trout and Doublecrossed. His last major feature film appearance was in the 2008 film Elegy with Sir Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz and Debbie Harry. His last ever role on screen was in TV drama Crash on the Starz network.
Of his many other TV roles over the years, his appearances in Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, The Defenders and The Twilight Zone were among the highlights.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, Hopper was told that the disease was terminal at the beginning of this year, and died at home in Venice, California on May 29. The actor, who was married five times, is survived by daughters Marin, Ruthella and Galen Grier, son Henry Lee and granddaughters Violet Goldstone and Ella Brill.