Harry Dean Stanton

  1. Marlon Brando,  The Missouri Breaks, 1975.   Thomas McGuane – the novelist known as the new Hemingway – wrote the script for  Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton, and planed to direct. (They’d been in his Rancho Deluxeand 92 in the Shadethe previous year before; Oates’ Montana ranch was close to McGuane’s).  Producer Elliot Kastner had loftier ideas: Arthur Penn  directing Jack Nicholson and his neighbour, Marlon Brando. And it all went downhill from there, as Brando did his out-of-control thing and totally ruined the Western. HDS, Nicholson’s best friend, stayed aboard… as Nicholson’s best friend! 
  2. Joe Turkel, The Shining, 1979.   The Zen cowboy was lucky to miss being barman Lloyd because Stanley Kubrick had lost it, insisting on  up to 70 takes  for some scenes (three days and 60 doors for “Here’s Johnny!”),  reducing Shelley Duvall and grown men, like Scatman Crothers at 69, to tears.“Just what isit that you want, Mr Kubrick?” He didn’t know. He was, quite suddenly, a director without direction.HDS was also in London. Making a real horror film. Alien.  HDS  was a Jack Pack member from way back. Indeed, when Nicholson wed Sandra Knight, June 17, 1962  – three weeks after his first acid trip – the best man was Snaps, as Jack called HDS. (Millie Perkins, Jack’s  future co-star inThe Shooting1965,  was maid of honour). Jack also taught him The Rule about acting. During Ride the Whirlwind, 1965. “Be yourself and let the wardrobe play the character.”
  3. Shaun Madigan, Sleep Is For Cissies (US:Edge City),1980.  First film (a short) by  Liverpool-born  auteur  Alex Cox (after law school with future UK Prime Minister Tony Blair!). HDS agreed to take part… “until Alien came up,” recalled Cox. “It’s a very fractured narrative, like Performance  – though there the comparison ends!”  Three years later, HDS starred in the first Cox feature, Repo Man.
  4. Randy Quaid, Fool For Love, 1985.    Among his 202 screen roles, Stanton  had a more memorable Sam Shepard story with German director Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, 1984.“Character actor? That’s bullshit. Every actor is a character actor. I had a chance – I was offered a whole career. I could’ve been a leading man, much more famous, much richer, and with more pussy, onscreen and off, than I’ve ever had.”  And…?  “Too much work!”
  5. Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher, 1985.     Before the Dutch star was chosen, the titular serial killer was described in the script(s)  as “skeletal” in nature –  like HDS, David Bowie, Sam Shepard, Terence Stamp and Sting. 
  6. Dennis Hopper, Hoosiers, 1985.   Nearly 30 years later, HDS said he regretted passing on the town drunk, Shooter, and couldn’t remember why he did so. (Sounds more like Hopper!). Dennis filled in, reluctantly, as he’d just stopped drinking. He then asked for one of his best scenes to cut as it gave  the impression that Shooter wasn’t taking his rehab sobriety seriously.But said co-writer and director David Anspaugh, “we’d been living with that scene in our heads for years.”Dennis said: “No, trust me.” They did and… “He was absolutely right.”  PS A Hoosier is anyone born in or iving in Indiana.
  7. Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet. 1986. Director David Lynch wanted to meet Stanton about playing Frank Booth.  “I turned the meeting down,” said Harry, “because I think I was afraid of it. That was a big mistake, though. I wish I’d done it and just seized the bull by the horns. The older I got, the more I didn’t want to go [to those dark places] which is a mistake for an actor. And this isn’t to say that in the end I would’ve gotten the role…this is tricky, but Dennis knows all this.“  Also on the Lynch list: Steven Berkoff, Willem Dafoe, Robert Loggia.
  8. Dennis Hopper, River’s Edge, 1986.  “I told ’em to call Dennis,” laughed Stanton. “And I sincerely don’t want to sound self-serving or to rain on Dennis’ parade, although I probably have. [Laugh].” Chicago critic Roger Ebert said of drug dealer Feck: “Another of Hopper’s possessed performances, done with sweat and the whites of his eyes.”
  9. Jack Lemmon,  JFK, 1991.



Deep in his bones, Harry Dean Stanton understood the sheer expressive power of saying nothing and doing very little. The veteran cult actor and musician elevated a kind of Zen minimalist performance style into high art. His bittersweet reward for this unshowy approach was a spotty screen career that took decades to blossom, but the huge groundswell of respect and goodwill he accrued served him well in his glorious autumn years… a long list of prestige screen credits from Hitchcock to Coppola, Scorsese to Lynch. Like a kind of counterculture Clint Eastwood, the Kentucky-born Stanton had a face that seemed to be hewn from the vast rocky canvas of the American landscape itself, immutable and immortal. That magnificently craggy visage, grizzled and chiselled, haunted and vulnerable, seemed to say everything even when his mouth said nothing. And saying nothing was his default setting. A laconic World War II veteran, he racked up around 200 screen credits across 60 years without ever seeming to crave the spotlight. To Stanton, the burdensome duties of stardom had limited appeal… “Too much work.” – Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter.


 Birth year: 1926Death year: 2017Other name: Casting Calls:  9