DETAILS: Restless is your first feature role. But you come from an acting family, so it probably wasn't the first script you'd been offered.
Henry Hopper: I had done a lot of theater in L.A. and then got offers to do movies I wasn't really attracted to. The parts were sort of middle-of-the-road, ambiguous, teenage roles. I'm more into the avant-garde, more into the strange. But as a young actor, they take you while you're stupid and mold you into whatever shape they think is appropriate.
DETAILS: What shape is that?
Henry Hopper: A clean-cut, nice-looking, untouchable virgin who's never had a glass of alcohol or smoked a cigarette.
DETAILS: That doesn't sound like anyone named Hopper. So what do you consider appropriate?
Henry Hopper: While I'm here on this planet, I really want to create art and do creative things. To quote Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "I am perpetually awaiting a renaissance of wonder." I'm waiting for the time when imagination takes over this fucking planet. Because we're culturally disintegrating into things we tried so hard to build a society in opposition to—white supremacy, sexism, violence. I'm excited by the idea of having a transcendental experience at the theater. Avatar is just a cheap, crappy version of what's possible.
DETAILS: It sounds like we won't see you in an action flick anytime soon?
Henry Hopper: I don't want to be in a movie with 20 minutes of dialogue and then stand around while the robots start explosions. I met this man in Berlin—I was standing on a dock and saw him on his boat, holding a saxophone and a plate with a half-eaten piece of sausage. He comes up to my friend and starts speaking in German. What he basically says is, "Always make the choice that is the most beautiful." Because life is fucking short! People say, "When you're young, just make a lot of money, and then you'll be able to do whatever you want." That's not honest. That's not real.
DETAILS: You were in art school and getting good response to your painting. What made you shift your focus?
Henry Hopper: Film is something that reaches so many people. How many people are going to go into a gallery? And understand what they're seeing? I think about the guy walking down the street, the guy who drove me here—this guy has the opportunity to go the cinema.
DETAILS: There's accessibility.
Henry Hopper: There's total accessibility. I thought that if I did one painting, I sell it to one person, and it goes on someone's wall. And it sits in their house, accents their couch. It doesn't get to reach a lot of people that way. Film's a way to reach a lot of people. The most important thing in this world is to be honest with each other about how we feel. Let's go see a film and feel something! And experience something. I've just really been blown away by Gaspar Noé's film Enter the Void. It takes it to a whole other level. I left the theater and astral-projected! We came out of the theater, and my friends were all holding their heads, shaking, going, "What the fuck did we just experience?"
DETAILS: That's pretty heavy. What do you do for fun?
Henry Hopper: I'm no romantic, surfing, California boy. I like reading, writing, philosophizing. Scheming. I've been doing some exploration of the inner space.
DETAILS: What does that involve?
Henry Hopper: I had a dream the other night about a flying saucer. I got up from my bed, walked to the window, and saw a spinning UFO. You heard it here first: The aliens are coming. Don't get on no fucking spaceships.