Mike Fleming

Cass Warner Sperling, the granddaughter of Warner Bros co-founder Harry M. Warner, has completed the feature documentary Hopper: In His Own Words. Well, actually she needs some finishing funds, but it is almost done and ready to be shopped for feature or TV. The film is mostly comprised of a long interview she did with Hopper for The Brothers Warner, a documentary she directed about the family business. “When I interviewed him he hadn’t been on the lot since the 50s, but he told all of these magnificent stories of his career, including how he went through these situations with drugs and how he confronted his demons and decided to not only survive but carry on with his art form,” Warner Sperling said. “He turned himself in for rehab and was given an antidote to get off it. It was a strong drug that made his hands shake and left him unable to speak. He convinced someone to get him out of there and as he was driving home, he told that person he was going to kill himself, because he couldn’t even light a cigarette.” His friend brought him to a doctor, and Hopper was scared enough by the experience to quit.” Hopper also regaled her with tales of signing with Warner Bros as an 18 year old and going right to work with James Dean on Rebel Without A Cause and Giant. It was on the lot where he clashed with director Henry Hathaway, and, Hopper told Warner Sperling, he got blackballed and went a decade without doing a studio film. Hopper died in 2010.

Hey, wait a minute. Why isn’t Warner Bros giving her the funds she needs clear rights to archival footage and clips, or why isn’t Warner Sperling coughing up the money herself? It’s because she learned the family business well. “That’s a strike against me,” she acknowledged. “How come I’m not using my Warners connections? My father, [the film producer and screenwriter] Milton Sperling, told me, ‘don’t ever use your own money to make a movie.’ I’m trying to follow his guidance. We’re doing the Kickstarter thing, hoping to get the finishing funds to complete it.”

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