THE DAY DENNIS HOPPER BLEW HIMSELF UP WITH DYNAMITE

Published on: June 20, 2003

Talk about getting blasted!

Notorious Hollywood baddie Dennis Hopper once blew himself up with dynamite -- and came out without a scratch!

The 67-year-old "Blue Velvet" star, a veteran of legendary battles against drug and alcohol addiction, insists he was stone-cold sober when as a young photographer and painter he surrounded himself with sticks of dynamite and detonated them as part of a "performance art" piece.

"I wasn't suicidal or high, but I decided to blow myself up," the quirky actor said in an interview at the premiere of his new movie "Knockaround Guys," in which he stars opposite "XXX" hunk Vin Diesel.

"This was in the early '80s in Houston. It was for an art show. I had decided to do something really different."

Hopper's big blast was to take place at the Big H Speedway, where a master of ceremonies would give a blow-by-blow account of the blow-up over a public address system.

"I circled myself with six full-sized sticks of dynamite, only just a few feet away from me on the ground, rigged up to go off simultaneously," Hopper recalled.

"The key to my survival was, when they blew up together, they would create a vacuum in the middle, sort of putting me into the eye of the hurricane, where if I stayed hunched over lying flat I would be completely safe.

"I plugged up my ears with wax. Then at the last minute I got so scared, my heart was really pounding. I could not make the two wires touch that would set off the explosion and the MC was saying that the powder must have gotten wet, and playing the crowd for time.

"There were hundreds of people who had turned out thinking that this mad painter was going to kill himself by blowing his head off. Then finally the wires touched, there was a flash, and in two seconds it was all over and I just jumped up in my fine white suit without even a speck of dirt on me!"

But although daredevil Hopper survived without a scratch, he didn't come out totally unscathed, he admitted.

"For weeks afterward I was falling all over the place because the shock wave of the explosion did something strange to my sense of equilibrium -- so it seemed like I was punch-drunk."