Appeals court upholds judgment vs. Hopper

Torn wins defamation case and punitive damages

A California appellate court has backed Rip Torn in his longrunning legal battle with fellow thesp Dennis Hopper, affirming an earlier defamation action brought by Torn and reversing the lower court’s decision denying punitive damage.

Torn filed suit after Hopper, while appearing on “The Tonight Show,” claimed Torn was fired from “Easy Rider” after assaulting him with a knife.

Torn’s attorney, Robert Chapman of Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman & Machtinger, said: “Mr. Torn is gratified that the court of appeal has agreed with the trial court and he feels vindicated. He wishes the whole thing never had happened.”

As detailed in the court’s opinion, Hopper appeared on the “Tonight Show” on May 31, 1994, to promote the movie “Speed,” and was asked by host Jay Leno how Jack Nicholson came to be cast in a lead role in “Easy Rider.”

Hopper, who directed the film and along with Peter Fonda and Terry Southern wrote the script, said Torn had been considered for the Nicholson role, but he and Torn “had a little problem.”

According to Hopper, Torn pulled a knife on Hopper at dinner because Torn thought he was being cut out of the picture.

Torn demanded a retraction and offered a different version of events. He contended that he was having dinner at a restaurant in New York in 1967 or 1968 with Fonda, Southern, Southern’s girlfriend Gail Gerber and novelist Don Carpenter, when Hopper showed up, clad in buckskin and sporting a buck knife, which he allegedly pointed between Torn’s eyes.

Torn said later that he passed on “Easy Rider” because of previous commitments and low pay.

At the original trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, a judge ruled that Hopper had lied and Torn was awarded $475,000 in damages.

In reinstating Torn’s punitive damages claim, the appeal court noted that although Hopper later admitted that the dispute was not about script changes on “Easy Rider” he refused demands for a retraction and stuck by his story that Torn had pulled the knife on him.

More Film

  • A woman prays at a makeshift

    Japan Expresses Its Grief Over Deadly Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Fellow animators and others in the Japanese entertainment industry have expressed their sorrow and solidarity with Kyoto Animation, the well-respected anime studio that suffered a horrific arson attack and the deaths of dozens of staffers. “We are all fellows in the same boat. If we continue to create without being afraid, we will find solace [...]

  • For Lineup Story

    Billie Piper's Directorial Debut, 'Rare Beasts,' to Bow in Venice Critics' Week

    “Rare Beasts,” the directorial debut of British stage and screen actress Billie Piper (“Doctor Who,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Collateral”) is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, which has unveiled its lineup of nine first works, four of them from female filmmakers. Produced by Vaughan Sivell of Western Edge Pictures in association with [...]

  • 'Mientras dure la guerra' -Rodaje Modmedia-

    Alejandro Amenabar, Ricardo Darin, Paco Cabezas Bound for San Sebastian

    MADRID  –  Alejandro Amenábar, Ricardo Darín and Paco Cabezas, director of episodes from “Peaky Blinders” and “American Gods,” look set to join Penelope Cruz, already confirmed as a Donostia Award winner, at this year’s 67th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival. The biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, this year’s San Sebastian runs Sept.20-28. Amenábar’s [...]

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • Bottom of the 9th

    Film Review: ‘Bottom of the 9th’

    Nearly two decades after scoring an audience award at Sundance for “Two Family House,” a smartly understated yet deeply affecting indie about a Staten Island factory worker who deeply regrets stifling his showbiz ambitions, director Raymond De Felitta steps back up to the plate with “Bottom of the 9th,” another dramatically solid and emotionally satisfying [...]

  • Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in

    Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in Africa (EXCLUSIVE)

    DURBAN–Endemol Shine Group has sold the rights to adapt its critically acclaimed and highly popular Nordic Noir detective series “The Bridge” to Cape Town-based production company Both Worlds Pictures, Variety has learned exclusively. The series will feature an all-African cast and will be set around the Beit Bridge border crossing between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Originally known [...]

  • Durban Film Fest 2019

    Durban Fest Hails Film as ‘Conscience of Our Nation’

    DURBAN–When Ros and Teddy Sarkin raised the curtain on the first Durban Intl. Film Festival 40 years ago, the odds were long that their scrappy fest would survive its inaugural edition. The apartheid government and its draconian censorship board had a stranglehold on the films that reached South African theaters, banning the sorts of subversive [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content