I feel it is safe to say that if you are a fan of the movies, then you are a fan of Harry Dean Stanton.
For me, it is hard to separate the two… for as long as I have loved movies, he’s always been there. He puts the “character” in character actor.
From the cocky crewman in ‘Alien‘, to Molly Ringwald’s dad in ‘Pretty In Pink’, to Brain in ‘Escape From New York‘, to damn near every David Lynch film ever made.
He has appeared in nearly 200 films and television series in his 60-year career and regardless of whether or not the movie is memorable, you can be sure his performance is.
My favorite is the grizzled repossession veteran who shows a young punk Emilio Estevez the ropes in ‘Repo Man’, a high-wire acting job that is simultaneously over-the-top yet restrained, hopeless yet hilarious (particularly his use of the ad-libbed insult, “gypsy dildo”), flawed yet absolutely perfect.
Quite simply, Harry Dean Stanton is one of the greats.
There is a great new documentary, ‘Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction’, which explores his life and career… or at least attempts to.
Harry is a man of few words and so much of his early life remains a mystery. One gets the sense there is a great sadness he carries, not unlike his wandering, homesick character he played in the extraordinary film ‘Paris, Texas’. And despite his prolific acting career, he would probably consider himself a musician first, having been gifted with a rich, expressive voice that has fronted a number of bands over the years.
I recently was fortunate enough to spend some time with Harry Dean Stanton discussing music and some of his favorite songs.
I was floored when he asked if he could sing a song .
One that we had been discussing was the Irish folk song “Danny Boy” so, given my name, I suggested he give that one a try.
And something happened that I could never imagine happening in my wildest dreams: Harry Dean Stanton serenaded me with the song “Danny Boy”.
Made my year.
Harry Dean Stanton – “Danny Boy”