Harry Dean Stanton, a longtime character actor, has died at the age of 91 years old.
Stanton, a Kentucky native, will soon be seen in Magnolia Pictures’ Lucky. The film premiered earlier this year at the SXSW Film Festival and hit Chicago this past May during the Chicago Critics Film Festival, where it took home the Audience Award. As I wrote about the film in my review this past May, it’s really a tribute to the late actor’s life. It’s beautifully directed by John Carroll Lynch from a screenplay written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja.
A Kentucky native, Stanton served in the U.S. Navy during World War 2 and would later appear in a production of Pygmalion at the University of Kentucky. The actor would make his on-screen debut in Tomahawk Trail in 1957 before appearing in numerous roles in both film and television in the 1950s and 1960s.
He appeared in classic films like Cool Hand Luke, Kelly’s Heroes, Dillinger, and The Godfather: Part II. Among science fiction fans, he could be known for his roles as Brett in Ridley Scott’s Alien or as a scientist in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. For those who grew up watching the John Hughes films, Stanton was cast as Molly Ringwald’s father in Pretty in Pink. David Lynch would cast Stanton in a few projects including Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and the most recent season. The late 1990s saw Stanton appear in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Green Mile.
In recent years, Stanton appeared in The Pledge, The Wendell Baker Story, Alpha Dog, You Me & Dupree, Rango, and in 2012, he made a cameo as a security guard in The Avengers (deleted scene above). Stanton was also seen in Seven Psychopaths and The Last Stand.
In the HBO series, Big Love, Stanton played patriarch Roman Grant. He appeared in another HBO series, Getting On, in 2014.
Other recent projects include Frank and Ava, a biopic on the affair and marriage of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner.
Perhaps Stanton might receive a posthumous nomination for his role as Lucky. It was a role that was written with him in mind from the start and it’s a beautiful performance from start to finish.