“Harry Dean Stanton, the gaunt, hollow-eyed, scene-stealing character actor who broke out of obscurity in his late 50s in two starring movie roles and capped his career with an acclaimed characterization as a corrupt polygamist on the HBO series ‘Big Love,’ died on Friday in Los Angeles,” The New York Times reports.
Stanton’s death, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was confirmed by his agent, John S. Kelly. Stanton was 91.
“Mr. Stanton spent two decades typecast in Hollywood as cowboys and villains before his unusual talents began to attract notice on the strength of his performances in the movies ‘Straight Time’ (1978); ‘Alien,’ ‘Wise Blood’ and ‘The Rose’ (all 1979); and ‘Escape From New York’ (1981),” The Times reports. “In those roles — as a former criminal bored in the law-abiding world, a 22nd-century space traveler, a street preacher pretending to be blind, a devastatingly cruel country-music star and a crazed demolitions expert — his look and his down-home voice were the same, but his characters were distinct and memorable.”
The report notes that Stanton remained largely unknown to the general public until 1984, when he unexpectedly transitioned to leading man status.
“That year he starred as a wandering amnesiac reunited with his family in Wim Wenders’s ‘Paris, Texas,’ which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and as a fast-talking automobile thief training Emilio Estevez in the ways of his world in Alex Cox’s cult comedy ‘Repo Man.’”
Stanton’s many other film roles included “Cool Hand Luke,” “Kelly’s Heroes,” “Dillinger,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Alien,” “Christine,” “Pretty in Pink,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Wild at Heart,” “The Straight Story” and “The Green Mile.”
Here’s a fun appearance by Stanton on David Letterman’s “Late Night” in 1984 …