Blaming Dennis

Bruce Von Stiers

I have seen Illeana Douglas in several films and TV appearances. I really didn't know anything about Illeana, other than she is the granddaughter of the late actor Melvyn Douglas.

But that all changed recently. I was going through a list of new and bestselling books. One particular book title caught my eye. It was I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories From a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies. And it was written by actress / director / producer Illeana Douglas. Not sure what to expect, I checked out the book.

It has 295 pages and was published by FlatIron Books. The book has fifteen chapters along with a prologue, and epilogue and three pages of acknowledgements. On the first page of each chapter there is a picture from some event in Illeana's life. There are also eight pages of photos in the middle of the book.

Some of the books written by or about actors tend to be on the tawdry side, with loves lost and found in lurid detail. Or they try to build the actor up and beyond their true worth in the industry, a sort of publicist's extravaganza. But I found none of this in Illeana's book. Illeana doesn't take herself too seriously in the book. Although relationships are delved into, the reader isn't delivered a detailed account of Illeana's love life.

Right away, the reader learns how Illeana came up with the book's title. It seems that her father decided to become a hippie after seeing the film Easy Rider. That threw her family into the world of communes, hippies and all of that 60's era stuff. As Dennis Hopper was one of the main actors, and director, of the film, he unknowingly shouldered the blame for the things that were happening in Illeana's childhood. But rather than being totally negative and spiteful, Illeana treats the whole thing with a sense of humor.

One of the many things that I learned from this book is that Illeana has a definite sense of humor. I knew she had done comedic roles along with her dramatic ones. But I didn't know that she was very funny. So much so, that she had been encouraged to do stand-up comedy early in her career.

Illeana takes the reader through parts of her childhood and up to where she tried to break into show business. We learn about her first experience in live theater and the acting schools she had went to.

Illeana also writes about her experiences working for top publicist Peggy Siegal, who had offices in the famous Brill Building. One such experience led to Illeana's first film role, a scene where she yelled at Shelley Long. That ultimately led to Illeana doing ADR (additional dialog recording) for the Martin Scorsese film, Last Temptation of Christ.

Ileana recounts many things that include Scorsese. While reading this, all of a sudden, I realized that Illeana and “Marty” were a couple. Like I mentioned earlier, I really didn't know anything about Illeana. I definitely didn't know she had been Scorcese's girlfriend. But apparently being the girlfriend of one of the best known directors of our time didn't hold that much weight in getting roles. Illeana recounts stories of several auditions she did while being with Marty. And, keeping with the tone of not heaping torrid details on the reader, Illeana doesn't write a lot about their relationship. Other than what related to a specific story she wanted to share with the reader.

Illeana also shares a few things about her interactions with her famous actor grandfather. She got to be on set with Melvyn Douglas while he was filming Being There. Peter Sellers gave her some advice that I won't repeat here, but apparently has stayed with Illeana since. Illeana also mentions going to the drive-in movie with her grandfather and watching Romeo & Juliet. Illeana credits Olivia Hussey, in her role as Juliet in the film, as the reason she became interested in kissing boys.

All through the book Illeana treats the reader to a touch of her humorous outlook on life. Like I said, she doesn't seem to taker herself too seriously. Some of the things Illeana relates are mildly humorous and other are just downright funny. Illeana did gloss over the ending of her relationship to Scorsese and her subsequent marriage and subsequent divorce to writer / producer David Axelrod.

Illeana shares stories of trying to get a comedic web series based in a supermarket filmed with no success only to have Ikea sponsor the show and change the setting to an Ikea store. And about how she started working with the folks at Turner Classic Movies. During the course of the book the reader learns a lot about Illeana's love for classic films.

After reading this book, I feel I've learned quite a bit about Illeana Douglas. I didn't get to know all of the dirt in her life, because she chose not to share it. But what Illeana did share was funny and very entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories From a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies can be found at most major book sellers.


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© 2016 Bruce E Von Stiers