Prolific film and television actor Harry Dean Stanton died this Friday of natural causes at the age of 91.
Stanton has built an iconic career centered on the intriguing and truth revealing geography of his face. He got his first big role in 1983 in the late Sam Shepard-written Paris, Texas and went on to accumulate a large wealth of varied and rich characters. Stanton is best known for his role as the polygamist leader in HBO’s Big Love and as Andy’s out-of-work father in Pretty in Pink. Other notable works include Repo Man, Twin Peaks, Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, The Mighty with Gena Rowlands, Man Trouble with longtime friend Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn’s The Pledge, Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog, Ridley Scott’s Alien, and The Green Mile.
Stanton landed his first leading role for Paris, Texas during an unassuming conversation with Sam Shepard at a bar in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Stanton revealed to the New York Times, “I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was playing. I told him I wanted to play something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering me for the lead in his movie.”
Stanton had a long road to stardom as an actor, appearing in many uncredited roles, primarily in westerns, before he hit it big. Even after his acting turned into legitimate credits, it still took a while for him to gain the recognition that he has today. Regardless, Roger Ebert noticed his talent early on, once highly praising Stanton for his performance in Paris, Texas, saying, “Stanton has long inhabited the darker corners of American noir, with his lean face and hungry eyes, and here he creates a sad poetry.”
Stanton never married, although he has claimed in the past to have “one or two children.”