LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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 featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh 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.
Nicholson so liked Stanton’s name that he would find a way to work his initials, HDS, into a camera shot.
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.”
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.
Wiry and sad, Stanton’s near-wordless performance is laced with moments of humor and poignancy. His heartbreakingly stoic delivery of a monologue of repentance to his wife, played by Nastassja Kinski, through a one-way mirror has become the defining moment in his career.