Star’s haggard face was his fortune
Harry Dean Stanton Actor BORN JULY 14, 1926 - DIED SEPTEMBER 15, 2017, AGED 91
IN A 60-year career Harry Dean Stanton became known as one of the finest character actors of his generation even though his big break came only in his 50s.
His haggard face and hangdog expression, coupled with a unique vulnerability, had made him a favourite of directors in supporting roles but it was playing world-weary engineer Brett in 1979’s Alien that really kick-started his career.
Five years later he took the lead role in cult hit Repo Man opposite Emilio Estevez and in the same year, in Paris, Texas, gave what critics called his finest performance as a haunted amnesiac trying to track down missing family.
Stanton was born in Irvine, Kentucky, to father Sheridan, a tobacco farmer and barber, and mother Ersel. After graduating in 1944 he enlisted in the US navy and saw action in the Battle of Okinawa.
But it was while on a journalism course at the University of Kentucky that Stanton began to consider a career in acting and after dropping out of college he moved to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse.
His film debut was in 1957 in the western Tomahawk Trail and regular work followed in TV shows including Bonanza and Rawhide. On the big screen his distinctive features landed him villainous roles including as an outlaw in Ride In The Whirlwind, written by and starring Jack Nicholson.
The two became firm friends, Stanton was best man at Nicholson’s wedding in 1962 and they would briefly share a house in LA after a divorce six years later.
He stood out in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke opposite Paul Newman, impressed alongside Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland in the 1970 war caper Kelly’s Heroes and three years later struck up a friendship with Bob Dylan in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid.
After critically lauded roles playing an FBI agent in The Godfather Part II and an ex-con in Straight Time, opposite Dustin Hoffman, there came Alien and a later career starring in films as diverse as David Lynch’s Wild At Heart, teen drama Pretty In Pink, comedy Private Benjamin and even as St Paul in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ.
He continued to work into his 90s, appearing in the latest series of Twin Peaks this year.
His final film Lucky was released yesterday in the US. Stanton never married though once claimed to have “one or two children”.