×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • So Long, My Son directed by

    Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son' Earns Six APSA Nominations

    Chinese drama, “So Long, My Son,” was nominated in six categories for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards. The unprecedented haul makes it a clear favorite. The Wang Xiaoshuai-directed drama about separation, secrets, a lifetime of regret, and the consequences of China’s one child policy, had its premiere in February at the Berlin festival. There [...]

  • Alan Rickman

    Film News Roundup: 'Galaxy Quest' Documentary Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, rescue drama “Not Without Hope” is back in development, a “Galaxy Quest” documentary is set for release, “The Two Popes” wins another award, and Ella Joyce gets cast. PROJECT REVIVED U.K.-based financing-production outfit Goldfinch has bought feature film rights to Nick Schuyler’s “Not Without Hope” and signed “The Fog” director [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds John Krasinkski

    Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski in Talks for 'Imaginary Friends' Movie

    Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski are in talks to board the fantasy comedy “Imaginary Friends” at Paramount Studios. Paramount recently won the bidding for the property over Lionsgate and Sony. Krasinski will write, direct,  produce and star while Reynolds will co-star if the deals go through. The story centers on a man who can see [...]

  • Willem Dafoe attends the "Motherless Brooklyn"

    Willem Dafoe Joins Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

    Willem Dafoe has closed a deal to join Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of “Nightmare Alley.” Collider had first reported that Dafoe was being considered for a role in the film, but sources now say the “Lighthouse” star has closed a deal to join the cast. The “At [...]

  • 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    Busan Film Review: 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    “To the Ends of the Earth,” the story of a young Japanese journalist’s experiences in Uzbekistan filming a report for a Japanese TV travel show, was originally commissioned to celebrate 25 years of cordial diplomatic relations between director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s hyper-developed island homeland and the less affluent, landlocked Central Asian nation. As such we might [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content