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Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton

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Also Known As: Dean Stanton, Harry Stanton, H. D. Stanton, Dean Stanton Died:
Born: July 14, 1926 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: West Irvine, Kentucky, USA Profession: actor, musician, tobacco harvester

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A prolific supporting player for well over a half-century, Harry Dean Stanton inspired film critic Roger Ebert to declare, "No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad." Of course, there were a few misfires along the way, but most were redeemed by the actor's strength for playing haggard men with battered souls. Stanton was well-liked and utilized by some of modern cinema's most visionary directors including Sam Peckinpah, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn and Wim Wenders. It was Wenders who launched Stanton's late career breakout when he cast him in an acclaimed leading role in "Paris, Texas" (1984), but prior to that quietly haunting performance, Stanton spent 25 years playing hard-bitten outlaws in notable films like "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" (1973) and "The Rose" (1979). Stanton was transformed into a wizened cult figure of the American indie film scene with "Repo Man" (1984), "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988), and "She's So Lovely" (1996) - to say nothing of his fatherly turn in "Pretty in Pink" (1986) and his unforgettable role as one of the doomed Nostromo crew of "Alien" (1979). A restless,...

A prolific supporting player for well over a half-century, Harry Dean Stanton inspired film critic Roger Ebert to declare, "No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad." Of course, there were a few misfires along the way, but most were redeemed by the actor's strength for playing haggard men with battered souls. Stanton was well-liked and utilized by some of modern cinema's most visionary directors including Sam Peckinpah, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn and Wim Wenders. It was Wenders who launched Stanton's late career breakout when he cast him in an acclaimed leading role in "Paris, Texas" (1984), but prior to that quietly haunting performance, Stanton spent 25 years playing hard-bitten outlaws in notable films like "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" (1973) and "The Rose" (1979). Stanton was transformed into a wizened cult figure of the American indie film scene with "Repo Man" (1984), "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988), and "She's So Lovely" (1996) - to say nothing of his fatherly turn in "Pretty in Pink" (1986) and his unforgettable role as one of the doomed Nostromo crew of "Alien" (1979). A restless, unconventional spirit off-camera, Stanton always lent a sympathetic realness to the menacing criminals and barroom-dwelling outsiders he stashed beneath his craggy face and wiry, worn frame. Late career work like his complex role as the head of a disgraced religious sect in "Big Love" (HBO 2006-2011) and as kindhearted trailer park manager Carl Rodd on "Twin Peaks: The Return" (Showtime 2017) traded on the decades etched in Stanton's unforgettable face. Harry Dean Stanton's death at the age of 91 on September 15, 2017 was mourned by friends, fans and fellow film and television professionals around the world.

Harry Dean Stanton was born on July 14, 1926, and raised near Lexington, KY where his father was a tobacco farmer. His hairdresser mother taught Stanton and his brothers to sing from an early age. Eventually singing and play-acting came to serve as a relief for him after his parents' divorce disrupted his home life. He sang with glee clubs, barbershop quartets, and choral groups in school, as well as in the Navy, which he joined fresh out of high school in 1944 and served aboard a battleship during the Battle of Okinawa. After his World War II service, Stanton attended the University of Kentucky, where he majored in journalism and radio arts. A performance as cockney Alfred Doolittle in a college production of "Pygmalion" inspired Stanton to pursue acting, so he headed to California and studied for two years with the Pasadena Playhouse alongside future up-and-comers Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall. He spent several years on the road touring; first with a men's gospel group and then a children's stage production before returning to California to try his luck in Hollywood. He landed a supporting role as a villain opposite Alan Ladd in the "The Proud Rebel" (1957) and quite quickly settled into a new life as a working actor on TV westerns and crime dramas like "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975) and "The Untouchables" (ABC, 1959-1963).

Stanton fell into a pattern of generally being cast as villains and gun-toting outlaws, thanks in part to his scrappy looks and off-screen edginess that he brought with him on camera. His notable early films included "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1960) and "How the West Was Won" (1962), though he did not begin to land more visible supporting roles until Monte Hellman's western, "Ride in the Whirlwind" (1965), penned by Stanton's then-roommate Jack Nicholson, and "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), where he had a memorable turn as a melancholy, gospel-singing convict. Shifting his efforts from his bread-and-butter television work to film, Stanton was tapped by Hellman for a small role in his existential road movie "Two Lane Blacktop" (1971) and went on to portray Homer Van Meter, notorious criminal and associate of John Dillinger, in the biopic "Dillinger" (1973). Stanton enjoyed a supporting role in one of the definitive modern westerns, Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973), which led to a close friendship with the film's star Bob Dylan and a solidifying of Stanton's reputation as a rebellious spirit with a philosophical and hard-partying bent.

Francis Ford Coppola gave Stanton a chance to look at life from the other side of the law in "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), where he played an FBI agent protecting Michael V. Gazzo. His timeless character looks made him a perfect casting choice to play a detective in the neo-noir adaptation of Raymond Chandler's "Farewell, My Lovely" in 1975. The following year, he gave another winning outlaw performance as the leader of a gang of horse thieves on the run from Marlon Brando in "Missouri Breaks" (1976). With his significant role in "Straight Time" (1978), a caper starring Dustin Hoffman as a career criminal taken under the wing of his elder ex-con, Stanton had the opportunity to create a complex portrait of a conflicted outsider, and he rose to the occasion. He showcased his singing in the role of a hard livin' country singer in the Golden Globe Best Picture nominee "The Rose" (1979), and the same year, co-starred in an adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's "Wiseblood" as conniving country preacher Asa Hawks. The sci-fi blockbuster "Alien" (1979) earned Stanton some more face recognition for his role as an ill-fated engineer of the spaceship Nostromo, whose search for the company cat ends violently. The same year, he appeared in the CBS TV movie "Flatbed Annie & Sweetpie: Lady Truckers," where his role as an auto repossessor predicted a forthcoming breakout.

Stanton played a key figure in the post-apocalyptic "Escape from New York" (1981) and as an ill-fated policeman in the horror classic "Christine" (1983) before a chance meeting at a bar with playwright Sam Shepard led to Stanton's first film lead in "Paris, Texas" (1984). In a role that called for the actor to remain largely silent, Stanton starred as a lost, broken soul trying put his life back together and reunite with his estranged family after having vanished years earlier. The beautiful, haunting film written by Shepard and directed by Wim Wenders also featured Stanton's vocals on the soundtrack. The actor who essentially carried the film from start to finish won the British Film Critics Award for Best Actor. Stanton's newly displayed capacity for more sensitive roles and his hip status among the art house set was solidified with his follow-up role in fledgling director Alex Cox's satirical "Repo Man" (1984). The cult classic co-starred Stanton as a car thief vet who takes disaffected young punk rocker Emilio Estevez under his wing to teach him about the seedy business and life.

The self-proclaimed "late bloomer" settled into a new confidence and was courted by Robert Altman to play an ornery old boozer opposite Sam Shepard in "Fool for Love" (1985). He was a surprising addition to John Hughes' fresh-scrubbed Brat Pack romantic comedy "Pretty in Pink" (1986), where he played the chronically unemployed blue-collar father of teen sweetheart Molly Ringwald. Thrilled with his new status as a contender for meatier, character-driven work, Stanton played Saul/Paul in Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) and in the first of many collaborations with David Lynch, portrayed a desperate detective in "Wild at Heart" (1990). He re-teamed with Lynch for "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" (1992) and appeared in two HBO films: "Hostages" (1993), a fictionalized account of a group of men kidnapped in Lebanon in the 1980s, and "Against the Wall" (1994), where he played the bar owner father of a son (Kyle McLachlan) serving time during the prison riots in Attica. In a rare comedic appearance, Stanton gave Kelsey Grammar some thorny moments in "Down Periscope" (1996) before revisiting his old western territory with a turn as Shadrach in "Larry McMurtry's Dead Man's Walk" (ABC, 1996).

Taking another first-look "low life" and bringing him alive on screen, Stanton had a supporting role in Nick Cassavetes' debut "She's So Lovely" (1996), starring as a barfly whose best friend (Sean Penn) returns home from a mental institution to find his life turned upside down. Stanton had a few mainstream film supporting roles in "Midnight Blue" (1997) and "Fire Down Below" (1997) before retreating to more artful fare with "The Mighty" (1998), where he played the grandfather of a large, learning disabled 13-year-old boy (Elden Henson). Stanton finished out the year by appearing briefly as a judge in Terry Gilliam's hallucinogenic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998), and made an about face in David Lynch's quietly meditative G-rated drama, "The Straight Story" (1999), about a 73-year-old man (Richard Farnsworth) who rides his John Deere mower from Iowa to Wisconsin to be with his estranged brother (Stanton) after he has had a stroke. Stanton evinced a morbid sense of humor as a trustee who tests the electrocution equipment in "The Green Mile" (1999), then played the shady manager of an opera company in the flamboyant period drama, "The Man Who Cried" (2001).

Drinking buddy Sean Penn gave Stanton a small role as the former partner of a retired Nevada homicide detective (Jack Nicholson) who slips into obsessive psychosis in his directorial effort "The Pledge" (2001). Stanton followed up with a role in Nicholas Cage's directorial debut, "Sonny" (2002), as a lowlife thief and gambler. Returning to the small screen, Stanton (along with buddy Penn) had a guest spot as himself in an episode of the sitcom "Two and A Half Men" (CBS, 2003-15) before he landed his own series regular role in controversial drama "Big Love" (HBO 2006-2011) as a frightening, but even-keeled church elder of a fundamentalist enclave in Mormon Utah. As if the grueling schedule of a weekly TV show were not enough for the hard-living 80-year-old actor, he also had a small role in David Lynch's critically divisive epic "Inland Empire" (2006) and Cassavetes' bold and violent sophomore effort, "Alpha Dog" (2007).

Supporting roles in indie drama "The Good Life" (2007), Hollywood mockumentary "Being Michael Madsen" (2007) and Jeff Bridges/Justin Timberlake comedy-drama "The Open Road" (2009) followed, as did smaller roles in more high profile films like animated western "Rango" (2011) and "The Avengers" (2012). A documentary, "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction" (2012), showcased his increasingly mythic stature as he entered his mid-80s and his prolific filmography finally started to slow. (A soundtrack album released in 2014 on Onmivore Records showcased Stanton's knack for weathered country ballads.) Small roles in quirky action comedy-drama "Seven Psychopaths" (2012), Arnold Schwarzenegger comeback vehicle "The Last Stand" (2013) and indie drama "9 Full Moons" (2013) preceded his final starring film role, in John Carroll Lynch's "Lucky" (2017). On the small screen, Stanton appeared on several episodes of medical comedy-drama "Getting On" (HBO 2013-15) before reprising his "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" role as kindly trailer park manager Carl Rodd on "Twin Peaks: The Return" (Showtime 2017). Harry Dean Stanton died of undisclosed natural causes on September 15, 2017 in Los Angeles. He was 91.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Lucky (2017)
3.
 Last Stand, The (2013)
5.
 Avengers, The (2012)
6.
7.
 Rango (2011)
8.
 Open Road, The (2009)
9.
 Good Life, The (2007)
10.
 Alien Autopsy (2006)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1996:
Co-starred in ABC miniseries "Larry McMurtry's 'Dead Man's Walk'"
2005:
Appeared in "The Wendell Baker Story" for Andrew and Luke Wilson
2001:
Played opposite Jack Nicholson in "The Pledge" for director Sean Penn
1998:
Appeared in the feature adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for Terry Gilliam
1979:
Made TV-movie debut in "Flatbed Annie & Sweetpie: Lady Truckers" (CBS)
2009:
Played the Caterpillar in SyFy fantasy miniseries "Alice"
2011:
Voiced Balthazar in Gore Verbinski's animated feature "Rango"
2012:
Made cameo in superhero blockbuster "The Avengers"
2012:
Cast in ensemble crime comedy "Seven Psychopaths"
2006:
Cast as Roman Grant, the prophet of the Juniper Creek compound, on HBO drama series "Big Love"
1999:
Cast in "The Green Mile" for director Frank Darabont
1974:
Cast in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather, Part II," as an FBI agent protecting Michael V. Gazzo
1984:
Cast in Alex Cox's quirky cult film "Repo Man"
1967:
Played a convict who sings gospel tunes to Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke"
1990:
Played a soft-hearted, but ill-fated private investigator in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart"
1986:
Played Molly Ringwald's father in "Pretty in Pink"
1988:
Played Saul (Paul) in "The Last Temptation of Christ"
1979:
Cast as engineer Brett in Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller "Alien"
1984:
Landed first screen lead in Wim Wenders-directed "Paris, Texas"
1957:
Made his screen debut in "Tomahawk Trail"
1958:
Played a villain opposite Alan Ladd in "The Proud Rebel"
2006:
Reteamed with David Lynch to star in "Inland Empire"
1992:
Starred in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me"
2014:
Reprised role of Brett in terrifying video game sequel "Alien: Isolation"
2017:
Starred in John Carroll Lynch's directorial debut, "Lucky"
2017:
Returned to Twin Peaks in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return"
2017:
Appeared in his final screen role as a sheriff in the Hollywood biodrama "Frank and Ava"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Lafayette High School: -
University of Kentucky: Lexington, Kentucky -
Pasadena Playhouse: Pasadena, California -

Notes

"After all these years, I finally got the part I wanted to play. If I never did another film after 'Paris, Texas' I'd be happy." --Harry Dean Stanton in press kit for "Dream a Little Dream"

"I think younger actors have it better today. I think that, traditionally, actors have been second class citizens on a lot of levels. However, since the breakup of the major studios, things have started loosening up ... today's young actors have more freedom." --Harry Dean Stanton

"I made it a point not to graduate [from college]. I thought that was a positive, independent kind of statement. I never liked being ordered around--which, of course, was an overreaction. I eventually found out that I didn't mind being ordered around at all when it was by someone who knew what he was doing." --Harry Dean Stanton in a 1986 interview in The New York Times Magazine.

"I sure wish I had matured earlier. There was such a long period in my life when I was struggling to bloom, and, as a result, I did a lot of stupid things ... To put it mildly, I was just a very late bloomer. It was Eastern mysticism that began to help me. Alan Watt's books on Zen Buddhism were a very strong influence. Taoism and Lao-tse, I read much of, along with the works of Krishnamurti. And I studied tai chi, the martial arts which is about centering oneself." --Harry Dean Stanton in a 1986 interview in The New York Times Magazine.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Rebecca De Mornay. Has a brother.
companion:
Rebecca De Mornay. Actor. Had a brief romance.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Sheridan Harry Stanton. Tobacco farmer, barber. Parents divorced when Stanton was in high school; remarried.
father:
Sheridan Harry Stanton. Survived her.
mother:
Ersel Stanton. Hairdresser. Parents divorced when Stanton was in high school; remarried.
mother:
Ersel Stanton. After divorce from Leisen's father, moved to St Louis, Missouri; remarried.
brother:
Ralph Stanton. Younger.
brother:
Ralph Stanton. Had one; survived him.
brother:
Archie Stanton. Younger.
brother:
Archie Stanton. Brewer. Partner in Leisen and Hennes Brewing Company; divorced from Leisen's mother c. 1899.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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