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

Actor was also prominent in supporting roles in both film and TV, including “Midnight Express” and “The Rockford Files”

Bo Hopkins
Getty Images

Bo Hopkins, a prolific actor known for his roles in the seminal Oscar-winning drama “Midnight Express” and George Lucas’ “American Graffiti,” has died at 84.

A rep for Hopkins confirmed that he died Saturday morning at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, California, as a result of a heart attack suffered on May 9. His wife of 33 years, Sian, was my his side at his deathbed.

Hopkins racked up over 130 acting credits over his half-century-long career and was most known for playing prominent supporting roles in major studio films between the late ’60s and late ’70s. Aside from his film roles, he also had numerous guest-starring spots on TV, including NBC’s 1974 detective drama series “The Rockford Files” and the iconic “Charlie’s Angels.”

Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1942 as William Mauldin Hopkins, he was raised by his mother and grandmother following his father’s death when he was just 9 years old. At the age of 16, Hopkins enlisted in the army, after which he settled on acting as a career choice, gaining experience in summer stock productions and taking guest spots on television, such as on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gunsmoke.”

His breakout role came playing a minor gang member nicknamed “Crazy Lee” in the 1969 Western “The Wild Bunch.” After working with filmmaker Sam Peckinpah on the project, he was cast as a bank robber in his action thriller “The Getaway” starring Steve McQueen and “The Killer Elite” three years later in 1975.

On the TV side, Hopkins guest-starred on a slew of programming, including “The Rockford Files,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The A-Team” and the primetime soap “Dynasty.”

However, he was best known for his memorable supporting roles in films like “American Graffiti,” written and helmed by a pre-“Star Wars” George Lucas and produced by Francis Ford Coppola. Hopkins played opposite Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss as “Little Joe” Young, the leader of a band of greasers named the Pharaohs. Hopkins’ other credits include “Midnight Express,” “The Bounty Hunter” and, more recently, “Vice” and “Hillbilly Elegy.”

A sandy-haired all-American actor, his Southern drawl and look led him to play either strait-laced lawmen or oily villains.

Prior to his death, Hopkins had settled in Los Angeles with his wife Sian and children Matthew and Jane, by whom he is survived. Away from the big and small screens, he enjoyed fishing, raising koi and watching his favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Angels.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Hopkins’ age.