Dennis Hopper, who helped usher in a golden age of American independent cinema with 1969 landmark Easy Rider, has died aged 74.

He died in his Los Angeles home, reportedly of complications from prostate cancer.

Starting his Hollywood career in the fifties acting is such films as Rebel Without a Cause, Giant, Gunfight at the OK Corral and True Grit, Hopper teamed up with Peter Fonda and Terry Southern to write Easy Rider. Hopper directed and starred alongside Fonda (who also produced) in the tale of two hippie bikers on a drug-fueled trip across the US.

Reportedly produced for $380,000, the film was a worldwide hit and alerted the Hollywood studios to the importance of the counter-culture youth market. It helped make a star of Jack Nicholson, caused a sensation at the 1969 Cannes festival (where it won Hopper the award for best first work) and paved the way for the independent film movement of the seventies.

After Easy Rider, Hopper directed and starred in 1971’s The Last Movie, but the commercial failure of that film almost killed his directing career. He did not direct again until 1980’s Out of the Blue, following that with Colors in 1988, Catchfire (aka Backtrack) and The Hot Spot in 1990, and Chasers in 1994.

He stayed busy as an actor, however, appearing in more than 100 films and TV series for studios and independents and European as well as American directors. Among his notable credits are The American Friend, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, True Romance, Speed, Waterworld and The Palermo Shooting.

His most recent theatrical release was David Zucker’s 2008 comedy An American Carol.

He recently gave voice to one of the characters in Alpha and Omega, an animated action adventure from Lionsgate and Crest Animation Studios. Now completed, the film is due for North American release in September.

Hopper was twice nominated for an Oscar, first in 1970 for his work on the Easy Rider original screenplay and then in 1987 as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Hoosiers. He recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.