Illeana Douglas
In 1969, actor Illeana Douglas' parents saw the film Easy Rider and were transformed. Taking Dennis Hopper's words, “That's what it's all about, man” to heart, they abandoned their comfortable upper middle-class life and gave Illeana a childhood filled with hippies, goats, free spirits, and free love. Illeana writes, "Since it was all out of my control, I began to think of my life as a movie, with a Dennis Hopper-like father at the center of it." I Blame Dennis Hopper is Douglas’ memoir, a testament to the power of art and the tenacity of passion. It is a rollicking, funny, at times tender exploration of the way movies can change our lives. With crackling humor and a full heart, Douglas describes how a good Liza Minnelli impression helped her land her first gig and how Rudy Valley taught her the meaning of being a show biz trouper. I Blame Dennis Hopper is an irresistible love letter to movies and filmmaking. “The author’s warm portraits and disarming honesty infuse the memoir with an endearing sweetness and charm,” our reviewer writes.


KIRKUS REVIEW

Actress, producer, and director Douglas celebrates her love of movies in a cheerful debut memoir.

The granddaughter of actor Melvyn Douglas, the author grew up in a hippie commune started by her father, who rejected a suburban, middle-class version of the American dream after he saw Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. His daughter yearned to escape from her parents’ self-imposed poverty and become a movie star. “We look up to movie stars,” she writes. “We believe in them, because they are larger than life, and it makes us believe in ourselves when no one else does.” Channeling Liza Minnelli, Douglas was accepted into the Hartford Stage Youth Theatre, which set her on a path to acting schools in New York. Her career was marked by “dreams and magic signs that foretell where you’re going” and helped smooth the inevitable rough spots. On the way to success, the author recounts meetings with many movie idols who encouraged her: Lee Marvin (“my childhood sweetheart,” she confesses), who kissed her and wished her luck; Peter Sellers, who told her to learn to ride a unicycle “because it’s hard and not everyone can do it”; and Richard Dreyfuss, with whom she was obsessed. “He was the first actor I studied,” she writes, “and tried to be like, like a painter copying a master until he has a technique of his own.” Other luminaries who make appearances include the generous and understanding Roddy McDowall; Robert De Niro, with whom Douglas acted in Cape Fear; “kind and adorable” Gene Wilder; and Martin Scorsese, who was her boyfriend for a while. She also describes an emotional meeting with Marlon Brando and recalls her success at producing Easy to Assemble, a satirical series made with IKEA’s cooperation.

The author’s warm portraits and disarming honesty infuse the memoir with an endearing sweetness and charm.


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