Not too long ago, I was working on a project where the producer was pursuing him for a major role. To be honest, the part and the actor weren't a fit, and Hopper knew it. But the producer felt that Hopper's name in the credits would help to sell the show internationally, and kept after him.
When it finally didn't happen, my one regret was that I'd be missing out on the chance to meet a legend.
The rise, fall and rebirth of Hopper's career will be charted elsewhere, but let me revive part of an old post to direct your attention to a performance in that was - I believe - the actor's first in a leading role:
Did you ever see Curtis Harrington's first feature, Night Tide? I'd wanted to see it for ages and finally managed to catch up with it last year.
It has a similar setup to Cat People - it features a very young Dennis Hopper as a sailor on leave in an off-season seaside resort, who falls for a woman who plays a mermaid in a sideshow. But she always holds something of herself back, and there's a sense of something more to her past. It could be a setup for a creature feature. But like Cat People, it's a naturalistic movie that presses the Creature Feature buttons.
I suppose the subtle stuff like that can't exist without the unsubtle stuff to be subtler than. If that makes any sense.