Bo Hopkins, ‘American Graffiti’ Actor, Dead at 84

by Joe Rutland

Actor Bo Hopkins, whose career would be a mix of playing good guys and bad guys in movies like American Graffiti, has died. Hopkins was 84 years old. He died Saturday morning, according to his wife, Sian, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Hopkins was at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, Calif. He suffered a heart attack on May 9. His hair-trigger delivery made Hopkins a favorite of Sam Peckinpah, who cast him in three features. First as Clarence “Crazy” Lee in The Wild Bunch (1969), second as a double-crossed bank robber in The Getaway (1972), and finally as a weapons expert in The Killer Elite (1975).

His turn as Joe Young, leader of The Pharaohs greaser gang in George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973), solidified him as a top-notch screen villain. The highlight of his role included coaxing Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) to attach a hook and chain to a police car. When the car gives chase, the back axle flies off.

Bo Hopkins Recalled Going to Car Shows and Connection to Film

“I go to car shows because American Graffiti is the national anthem of car shows,” Hopkins said in a 2012 interview with Shock Cinema magazine. “Graffiti got people out draggin’ and going up, and down streets cruisin’. It got people into cars doing that kind of stuff again.”

Meanwhile, the South Carolina native would move to the right side of the law. Executive producer Quentin Tarantino tapped him to portray a good guy in Dusk to Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999). “Tarantino told me that he loved my work and that he had this part,” he said. “Well, I got the script and said, ‘Sure, I’ll do this. This is great.’ Well, they didn’t tell me they were going to shoot in South Africa.”

Actor Was Born In South Carolina, Would Find Way Out To Hollywood

In The Wild Bunch, Hopkins plays a volatile young member of a gang. They terrorize a group of hostages inside a bank before meeting a horrible end in a hail of bullets. Before dying, Hopkins’ character says, “Well, how’d you like to kiss my sister’s black cat’s ass?”

Hopkins was born on Feb. 2, 1938, in Greenville, S.C. His father worked at a local mill; his mother stayed home with the children. At age 39, his dad had a heart attack and died on the porch of his home. He did so in front of his wife and son. Later on, Hopkins would visit New York City, then return home to South Carolina for a bit. But he would go to Hollywood and the actor got a scholarship to an acting school at the Desilu-Cahuenga Studios.