Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dennis Hopper

Remember the name Barry Seal? He was a Baton Rougean who lived a block from where we lived. I seldom ever saw Seal because he was kept very busy by the DEA and the Medellin Drug Cartel. As you may know Barry was murdered in 1986 by goons sent to Baton Rouge by the Medellin.

In 1991 Warner Brothers produced DOUBLECROSSED starring Dennis Hopper as the beleaguered drug runner, Barry Seal. Though Seal was my neighbor, the closest I ever got to him was through his film likeness, Dennis Hopper. I played the role of Judge Altzo (not his real name). My character was the judge who sentenced Seal to a half-way house in Baton Rouge with stringent curfews that would ultimately be Barry’s undoing.

The courtroom scene is one for which I am most proud. I read him the “riot act” before finally giving him a half-way house sentence. Most of this dialog was between myself and my dear now-departed friend, Don Hood, who was playing Seal’s attorney. An interesting footnote here: only a few months before this production came into Louisiana Don and I had quipped to each other that we had only been in one other film project together and wondered when and if we would ever get to play opposite each other. Then lo and behold here we were going at each other’s throats …. a scene which we both regarded as one of our finest screen efforts. 

On the day of the shoot at about 2:00 pm we all broke for lunch which was to be served on the 1st floor of a New Orleans courthouse. The courtroom set was on one of the upper floors. Getting into the elevator to join the rest of the cast and crew for lunch was Hopper, G.W. Bailey, Don Hood and myself. Hopper then said to me “Your Honor, how long have you been serving on the bench?” Wow! This question caught me completely off guard. The only thing that came out of my mouth was “About 6 hours.” Not knowing whether or not he was kidding, Bailey whispered something to him. Then Dennis said “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a real judge.” Bailey winked at me and I smiled and simply said “Well, I’ll take that as a compliment.

Other than from the script, these were the only words we exchanged during that shoot. While I found Dennis to be very friendly, he nonetheless seemed very shy and distant. .. at least with me. I am speculating that because of some prior run-ins he had had with law enforcement and the judiciary (in his distant past), he was probably having flash-backs in this courtroom and felt compelled to keep his distance since he apparently thought I was a real judge. Of course this is just speculation on my part.

I would hear later that G.W. Bailey had been overheard during the shoot saying to Adrienne Barbeau “He is good” referring to my portrayal. Hearing this naturally bolstered my theatrical ego. And speaking of “good”, not only was Dennis Hopper’s Seal portrayal truly superb, G.W.Bailey’s character, Camp, was a perfect foil to the Seal character and Don’s portrayal of Seal’s attorney was powerful and convincing.


  1. Jerry, I read your article & saw your mention of G.W. Bailey. Would you be interested in writing about G.W. Bailey & his foundation The Sunshine Kids? SSK is celebrating its 30th Anniversary and GW has been involved with them the past 28 years. I am doing a special fundraiser for SSK in honor of THE CLOSER. I have met GW and the cast. Please contact me @ Thank you! Dee Dee

    1. Dee Dee, I had only a brief encounter with G.W. on the set of this film I knew nothing about his SSK foundation. I'd suggest you contact fellow FB friend Rick Malone. Rick and his wife, Diane, know him well.