Actor Bo Hopkins, known for American Graffiti, has died at the age of 84. The Hollywood Reporter says that the actor was best known for playing thieves and scoundrels. Sian, Hopkins’ wife of 33 years, said that Hopkins suffered a heart attack on May 9. Hopkins was hospitalized at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, where he died today. Hopkins’ talent earned him favor with Western film director Sam Peckinpah, who cast Hopkins in three of his features. Specifically, Hopkins portrayed Clarence “Crazy” Lee in The Wild Bunch (1969), a double-crossed bank robber in The Getaway (1972) a weapons expert in The Killer Elite (1975).
Rough Road to Becoming an Actor
Actor Bo Hopkins was born William Hopkins in 1938. Variety says his name was changed to Bo in reference to a character he played in his first off-Broadway production Bus Stop. Hopkins was adopted at the age of nine. He witnessed his 39-year-old adoptive father die of a heart attack. His mother remarried, and a tense relationship with his stepfather led to Hopkins living with his grandparents. He had numerous truancies, committed minor crimes, and had a stay at a reform school. He dropped out of high school and joined the army at 16, and at 18 he married a girl named Norma and fathered her child. She left and took their daughter with her when Hopkins chose to pursue acting.
Hopkins managed to get some summer stock roles and TV guest spots. Some of his roles on television included spots on The Rockford Files (1974), Charlie’s Angels (1976), The A-Team (1983), Hotel (1983), and Matt Houston (1982).
Bo Hopkins on ‘American Graffiti’
Hopkins’ portrayal of gang leader Joe Young in American Graffiti cemented him as a top-notch portrayer of villains. Hopkins said in 2012 that he would go to car shows because “American Graffiti is the national anthem of car shows. Graffiti got people out draggin’ and going up and down streets cruisin’. It got people into cars doing that kind of stuff again.”
Bo Hopkins held American Graffiti dear to his heart. The actor’s last film, 2020’s Hillbilly Elegy, was directed by Hopkins’ Graffiti co-star Ron Howard.