Beloved actor Stanton dies at age 91
Hollywood favorite put stamp on many roles
LOS ANGELES — For more than 60 years, Harry Dean Stanton played crooks and codgers, eccentrics and losers.
He endowed them with pathos and compassion and animated them with his gaunt, unforgettable presence, making would-be fringe figures feel central to the films they appeared in.
The late critic Roger Ebert once said no movie can be altogether bad if it includes Stanton in a supporting role, and the wide cult of fans that included directors and his fellow actors felt the same.
“I think all actors will agree, no one gives a more honest, natural, truer performance than Harry Dean Stanton,” director David Lynch said in presenting Stanton with the Inaugural Harry Dean Stanton Award in Los Angeles last year.
Stanton died Friday of natural causes at a Los Angeles hospital at age 91, his agent John S. Kelley said.
Lynch, a frequent collaborator with the actor in projects like “Wild at Heart” and the recent reboot of “Twin Peaks,” said in a statement after Stanton’s death, “Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) — and a great human being.”
When given a rare turn as a leading man, Stanton more than made the most of it. In Wim Wenders’ 1984 rural drama “Paris, Texas,” Stanton’s near-wordless performance is laced with moments of humor and poignancy. His heartbreakingly stoic delivery of a monologue of repentance to his wife, played by Nastassja Kinski, through a one-way mirror has become the defining moment in his career, in a role he said was his favorite.
“‘Paris, Texas’ gave me a chance to play compassion,” Stanton told an interviewer, “and I’m spelling that with a capital C.”
The film won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival and provided the actor with his first star billing, at age 58.
“Repo Man,” released that same year, became another signature film: Stanton starred as the world-weary boss of an auto repossession firm who instructs Emilio Estevez in the tricks of the hazardous trade.
He was widely loved around Hollywood, a drinker and smoker and straight talker with a million stories who palled around with Jack Nicholson and Kris Kristofferson among others and was a hero to such younger stars and brothers-in-partying as Rob Lowe and Estevez.
He appeared in more than 200 movies and TV shows in a career dating to the mid-1950s.
Harry Dean Stanton