Harry Dean Stanton died a few days ago. I never met the man and I know very little about him, so I’m not going to try and write some sort of obituary here. All I really know is that he was in absolutely loads of mint films, and no matter how minor his role was, he always added a certain craggy-faced flavour to the scene.
Here’s a few films that might be worth digging out in the next few days.
PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID - 1972
Harry featured regularly in the background of dusty westerns in the 60s and 70s — and maybe the most memorable of these is Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
To be honest, I don’t think he says much in this, but it’s a good representative of his earlier roles… and it’s a top film featuring everything from chicken-based target practice to a rare Bob Dylan acting stint.
ALIEN - 1979
Unlike a lot of sci-fi films in which the world’s beautiful people strut around the gleaming corridors of some immaculate spacecraft with grace and ease, Alien has a real grit to it that makes it almost believable. This is no doubt helped by the reliable face of Mr Stanton, as card playing space trucker, Brett.
Although he meets an unfortunate end whilst trying to rescue a ginger tomcat called Jonesy, his no-nonsense attitude and Hawaiian-shirt/military jacket combo cement him one of the only cosmic voyagers you wouldn’t mind supping a cold bottle of suds with.
REPO MAN - 1984
Crammed full of dingy alleyways, comic-book scum-bags and California street-punks, Repo Man represents the peak of 1980s LA scuzz. I haven’t seen this film in ages, but from what I remember Harry plays a veteran repo man who takes a young Emilio Estevez under his wing amidst various unexplained UFO-based weirdness.
A rare film that makes Los Angeles look interesting.
PARIS, TEXAS - 1984
Paris, Texas was one of Harry’s rare lead roles. That said, he barely speaks a word, and spends most of his time wandering around in a daze, as he tries to piece his life together. This is one of those films in which every single frame would make a great photograph, and although it’s hardly a barrel of laughs, it’s a true visual feast.
This also features a brief cameo from John Lurie – another man with an impeccable track record for cult film appearances.
TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME - 1992
A lot of people aren’t into this film, but a lot of people are morons. This film is absolutely mint and features about 500 of the maddest things ever captured on celluloid. David Bowie turns up talking with a rubbish ‘deep South’ accent, a woman in a red dress mimes police clues and Harry Dean Stanton rocks up as a unenthusiastic trailer-park owner called Carl Rodd.
Harry recently reprised this role for the third season of Twin Peaks, and although he only appeared for approximately 9 minutes out of around 18 hours, he still had some of the most potent scenes.
Other honourable mentions include Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, Green Mile, Cool Hand Luke, Escape from New York and about a thousand more classics.
R.I.P. Harry Dean Stanton.