Harry Dean Stanton, whose scruffy looks and off-beat demeanor made him a favorite of directors seeking a character actor to add eccentricity or melancholy to the screen, died on Friday from natural causes, his agent said. He was 91.
Stanton, who appeared in some 70 movies and many television shows including “Repo Man,” “Paris, Texas” and most recently David Lynch’s reboot of television’s “Twin Peaks,” died peacefully at Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, his agent John Kelly said in a statement.
Stanton’s final on-screen role can be seen in the upcoming film “Lucky.”
In a career spanning 60 years, Stanton’s roles were not always big but were meaningful and could add a special quirk or flavor to a film. Sometimes he said very little in his roles, but with a long, craggy face highlighted by unkempt hair and sad, droopy eyes, Stanton had a strong physical presence and made a point of not over-acting.
“He’s one of those actors who knows that his face is the story,” his friend Sam Shepard, the playwright and actor, said in the 2012 documentary “Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.” Shepard himself passed away in July this year at the age of 73.
Stanton credited Jack Nicholson with giving him vital professional advice. Nicholson had written a part for Stanton in the Western “Ride the Whirlwind” and told him, “Let the wardrobe do the acting and just play yourself.”
“After Jack said that, my whole approach to acting opened up,” Stanton told Entertainment Weekly.
Stanton worked with many of Hollywood’s most notable directors, including Frances Ford Coppola (“The Godfather Part Two” and “One From the Heart”), Sam Peckinpah (“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”), Martin Scorsese (“The Last Temptation of Christ”), Ridley Scott (“Alien”), and Lynch (“Wild at Heart,” “The Straight Story,” and “Inland Empire”).
Stanton could be taciturn to the point of mystery. In “Partly Fiction,” when Lynch asked him how he would like to be remembered, Stanton replied: “It doesn’t matter.”