Legendary American actor Harry Dean Stanton died on September 15 in Los Angeles. He was 91 years old. A character actor with a career that spanned six decades, Stanton’s most notable appearances include Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Godfather Part II (1974), Alien (1979), Twister (1989), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Green Mile (1999). He was also known for his role as polygamist cult-leader Roman Grant, appearing in the first three seasons of HBO’s drama Big Love.
Stanton began with small and often uncredited roles in the first decade of his acting career. During this time, he mostly appeared in Westerns on film and television. He eventually attracted attention for his laconic screen presence in films like Straight Time (1978), Wise Blood (1979), The Rose (1979), and Escape From New York (1981).
The character actor rose to prominence in 1984 at the age of 58 with lead roles in two films. He played a wandering amnesiac who reconnects with his family in Wim Wenders’s road movie Paris, Texas (1984), which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and a veteran car repossesor in Alex Cox’s cult comedy Repo Man (1984). The films gained Stanton widespread recognition and he was invited to host sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live in 1986.
He also formed a band, known simply as the Harry Dean Stanton Band, which played rock, blues, jazz and Tex-Mex numbers. Stanton sang for the soundtrack of Sophie Huber’s documentary Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2013), which featured film clips and interviews with Stanton’s most frequent collaborators, including Wenders, Kris Kristofferson, and David Lynch.
Stanton was praised by several film critics for using his trademark hangdog expression to craft authentic characters. American film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that if a film featured Harry Dean Stanton (or M Emmet Walsh) in a supporting role, it couldn’t be “altogether bad”.
Stanton continued to act in supporting roles in the latter half of his career, in films like Twin Peaks (1992), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Big Bounce (2004), The Avengers (2012), Seven Psychopaths (2012), and The Last Stand (2013). In 2017, Stanton reprised his role as Carl Rodd from Twin Peaks in a TV series. He plays a 90-year-old atheist John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut Lucky, which is scheduled to release in the US on September 29.
Tributes poured in for Stanton, especially from his collaborators.