Character actor Stanton became cult favorite
Known for ‘Repo Man,’ ‘Paris, Texas’
LOS ANGELES - Harry Dean Stanton, the shambling, craggy-face character actor with the deadpan voice who became a cult favorite through his memorable turns in “Paris, Texas,” “Repo Man” and many other films and TV shows, died Friday at age 91.
Stanton died of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent, John S. Kelly, told The Associated Press. Kelly gave no further details on the cause.
Never mistaken for a leading man, Stanton was an unforgettable presence to moviegoers, fellow actors and directors, who recognized that his quirky characterizations could lift even the most ordinary script. Roger Ebert once observed that no movie with Stanton in a supporting role “can be altogether bad.”
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 Emilio Estevez. “I don’t act like their father, I act like their friend,” he once told New York magazine.
Almost always cast as a crook, a codger, an eccentric or a loser, he appeared in more than 200 movies and TV shows in a career dating to the mid-1950s. A cult-favorite since the ’70s with roles in “Cockfighter,” “Two-Lane Blacktop” and “Cisco Pike,” his more famous credits ranged from the Oscar-winning epic “The Godfather Part II” to the sci-fi classic “Alien” to the teen flick “Pretty in Pink,” in which he played Molly Ringwald’s father. He also guest starred on such TV shows as “Laverne & Shirley,” “Adam-12” and “Gunsmoke.” He had a cameo on “Two and a Half Men,” which featured “Pretty in Pink” star Jon Cryer, and appeared in such movies as “The Avengers” and “The Last Stand.”
While fringe roles and films were a specialty, he also ended up in the work of many of the 20th century’s master auteurs, even Alfred Hitchcock in the director’s serial TV show.
“I worked with the best directors,” Stanton told the AP in a 2013 interview, given while chain-smoking in pajamas and a robe. “Martin Scorsese, John Huston, David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock was great.”
He said he could have been a director himself but “it was too much work.”
Fitting for a character actor, he only became famous in late middle age. In Wim Wenders’ 1984 rural drama “Paris, Texas,” he earned acclaim for his subtle and affecting portrayal of a man so deeply haunted by something in his past that he abandons his young son and society to wander silently in the desert.
Stanton, who never lost his Kentucky accent, said his interest in movies was piqued as a child when he would walk out of every theater “thinking I was Humphrey Bogart.”
After Navy service in the Pacific during World War II, he spent three years at the University of Kentucky and appeared in several plays. Determined to make it in Hollywood, he picked tobacco to earn his fare west.
Stanton never married, although he had a long relationship with actress Rebecca De Mornay, 35 years his junior. “She left me for Tom Cruise,” Stanton said often.
“I might have had two or three (kids) out of marriage,” he once recalled. “But that’s another story.”
Harry Dean Stanton arrives at a celebration for actress Marion Cotillard in West Hollywood, Calif., in 2008. He was a legendary character actor. Stanton has died at age 91. His agent John S. Kelly says the actor died of natural causes Friday in Los Angeles.