Cult character actor – and keen musician – Harry Dean Stanton has died of natural causes at the age of 91.
The word “cult” is often a way to say “obscure”, yet while Stanton was hardly a top box office drawcard, he leaves both a prolific canon of work and a legion of fans of his gruff yet likeable persona and distinct appearance.
Starting out in small television and movie roles back in 1954 – including being directed by Alfred Hitchcock in a TV take on Suspicion – Stanton’s first prominent role came in his close friend Jack Nicholson’s western Ride in the Whirlwind.
Stanton’s movie career went up a gear from here, with appearances of various import in such films as 1967’s In the Heat of the Night and Cool Hand Luke, 1970’s Kelly’s Heroes and 1974’s The Godfather: Part II.
But then came Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979, which saw Stanton’s engineering technician Brett (possible spoiler) the first victim of the fully-formed xenomorph. From here, Stanton really kicked on, with roles in such diverse flicks as The Rose (1979) with Bette Midler, Private Benjamin (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Young Doctors in Love (1982) and Stephen King’s Christine (1983).
Then came a double whammy of two roles which cemented Stanton as a much-loved cult actor, as Bud in 1984’s Repo Man, and Travis Henderson in Wim Wenders’ road movie Paris, Texas (also 1984).
The role which slightly younger fans may love Stanton for was as Molly Ringwald’s father in John Hughes’ 1986 teen masterpiece Pretty in Pink. He didn’t play your typical sunshine and lollipops movie dad, and was an underrated highlight of the film.
From 1988’s The Last Temptation of Christ through Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Green Mile (1999), Alpha Dog (2006), Rango (2011), This Must Be the Place (2011), The Avengers in 2012 and one of his final appearances, reprising his role of Carl Rodd in the 2017 series of Twin Peaks, Stanton seemed happiest skirting the edges of interesting film, doing things his way.
Like many, many others, we loved his way. Vale Harry Dean Stanton.
— Twin Peaks (@SHO_TwinPeaks) September 15, 2017
Harry Dean Stanton had the best line in CHRISTINE: "I'm selling' this shithole and buyin' a condo." Rest in peace, HD. You were great.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 15, 2017
RIP to the legendary Harry Dean Stanton. Impossible to cover his legacy in brief but here's a few favs: 'Alien', 'Paris Texas', 'Repo Man'. pic.twitter.com/tKglu0Bemv
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) September 15, 2017
Harry Dean Stanton was the definition of cool. On Alpha Dog, he wouldn't leave a room w/o saying, "Love ya. Mean it." Such a great guy. RIP
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) September 15, 2017