hopper penn is a hollywood star in the making
Hopper Penn is the son of Sean Penn and Robin Wright, takes his name from Dennis Hopper, loves skateboarding and pizza, and has survived a near death experience as a teen to become one of Hollywood’s fastest rising young stars.
Hopper wears jacket CK Jeans. T-shirt AG Jeans.
"I had been drinking and smoking with a bunch of friends," recalls Hopper Penn, 23, telling the story of how he nearly died as a teenager and why he still has a large scar on the bridge of his nose. "I wanted to skate this big, famous hill in Malibu that all the Z-Boys used to carve. It's called Grey Fox. I'd done it a few times before, but because I was new at the high school I wanted to show these kids I could do it. So I started going down and I got speed wobbles, I hit a tiny rock and because I had been drinking and smoking I didn't put my hands out and hit my head. There was swelling in my brain. I had to get immediate brain surgery: I had two hours before I was either going to die or be in a coma."
There are two things that you notice about Hopper Penn's nose. First, it really looks like his father Sean Penn's. It's a famous nose passed down through the family. Second, it has a scar that once went down to the bone and looks really cool. "Thank you," he says, "I hate it. But I've gotten used to it now."
Hopper says he is lucky to be alive and his recovery wasn't that bad but, when reminded that he was hours from death, concedes, "yeah, it was a little serious..." Hopper's very laidback. His dad's Sean Penn, his mum's Robin Wright, but he's no Hollywood brat. Actually he dislikes Los Angeles because everyone's so self-absorbed ("Be your fucking self. Don't be this fake person that's trying to look like Johnny Depp, with fifteen scarves when it's a summer day. I know I'm wearing a beanie, but it's because I buzzed my head and it looks bad.") but nonetheless here we are in the Santa Monica sunshine, twenty minutes walk from the beach, on the morning of the US election. Hopper rolls up on a skateboard in worn sneakers, blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a snowflake-patterned beanie. He looks just like an ordinary dude. His board is a green Tony Trujillo deck with a graphic of his dad's stoner character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High sitting there with a bong saying 'I'm sooo wasted', but it's hard to tell that because the paint has been smeared together by slides and other tricks.
We stand outside the fence of the Cove skate park, which is a poured concrete park with huge, terrifying bowls that look like they could break all your bones. This is where he likes to skate. His best ever trick, he says (slightly bashfully) was a frontside Smith grind on the bowl in the far corner, which is 14 feet tall, when he was around 16 or 17 years old. Hopper got his first skateboard for his fourth birthday, when he was living in Australia where his father was shooting a film. "For five months I just went down the hill on my butt," Hopper recalls. Then we moved back to the States and my dad said, 'I didn't get you a board to do that. Get on that board and stand up.' My dad used to skate when he was younger, and he's a big surfer. Soon I was addicted to skateboarding and did it every day, all day long." His acting career started in a similar way, when Hopper asked his father if he could PA on a film he was directing, The Last Face: "He was like, 'no, you're going to act in it.' And I was like, 'fuck you, I'll never act in my life.' I was so not into it, embarrassed and shy. Then he showed me how much I could be getting paid, and I was like, 'all right, let's do this!' I read the script for the character and my dad says, 'he kind of seems like you anyways. The only thing is you don't fly helicopters. But he's a stoner, and he's a pilot.' I thought, I've got one of those things down. I just had to learn how to fly helicopters and I was good."
Me and a few friends hit it pretty hard filming War Machine. We drank Jim Beam every night. We wanted to feel like we were in the shit every fucking morning. Which we did, and I think it played pretty well.
Most recently Hopper has been in the Middle East filming War Machine, a black comedy directed by David Michôd and based on Michael Hastings' book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan. He plays Nick, a gunner in the marines, alongside Will Poulter, Keith Stanfield, and Brad Pitt. "That was the coolest experience I've ever had," Hopper says, "going to Abu Dhabi and working on that movie. We'd all get in at 11 at night, have dinner, have a drink, and wake up at four o'clock in the morning and have our heads shaved: get buzzed, get our gear on. It's 80-pound gear. It's 40 degrees already at seven in the morning. We're at boot camp in the middle of fucking nowhere. We were set for eight days of boot camp but none of us had any idea what we were in for." Everybody threw up on that first day, but they bonded. "It was cool to get that brotherhood. They put us in the shit. Me and a few of my friends hit it pretty hard every night and drank Jim Beam. We wanted to feel like we were in the shit every fucking morning. Which we did, and I think it played pretty well."
So what's next for the young man who likes acting and skating and dislikes Los Angeles? A clue is in the T-shirt he's wearing from Lamonica's, a shop in Westwood Village that makes all their pizza dough in Brooklyn using the tap water there and ships it thousands of miles across the country (which sounds crazy, but most pizza is terrible in this city). "Right now," says Hopper, "all I want to do is theatre, if I could. I'm trying to move to New York when it's financially possible. New York is my favourite city of all time. Like, the women I see. I fall in love ten times a day out there..."
Text Dean Kissick
Photography Bruno Staub
Styling Julian Jesus
Grooming Ramsell Martinez at Streeters using R+Co
Digital Technician Morgan Acaldo
Casting Kegan Webb.