7 Deadly Reasons why Harry Dean Stanton was the Definition of Cool

Harry Dean Stanton was Jack Nicholson’s best man

As budding young actors Stanton and Jack Nicholson were roommates. In the 1960s, the two were was part of a clique of hard-living Hollywood rebels who also included Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Stanton was best man at Nicholson’s wedding in 1962. After Nicholson divorced in 1968 he lived for a time with Stanton.

Jack Nicholson and Harry Dean Stanton


He was a firm favourite of David Lynch

If there was one director he was born to work with it was David Lynch who cast Stanton in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), Wild at Heart (1990), The Straight Story (1999), Inland Empire (2006) and the recent Twin Peaks: The Return (2017).

Lynch said of the late actor in a statement, “The great Harry Dean Stanton has left us. There went a great one. There’s nobody like Harry Dean. Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) – and a great human being – so great to be around him!!! You are really going to be missed Harry Dean!!! Loads of love to where you are now!!!”


His first lead role came at the age of 58

His breakthrough part came with the lead role in “Paris, Texas” (1984) which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival where he played a lost soul trying to reunite with his estranged family. The movie’s screenwriter Sam Shepard had spotted Stanton at a bar in Santa Fe in 1983 while both were attending a film festival. “I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was playing,” Stanton recalled in a 1986 interview. “I told him I wanted to play something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering me for the lead in his movie.” He later told the Los Angeles Times he was “finally playing the part I wanted to play. If I never did another film after this, I’d be happy”.


Debbie Harry wants to dance with Harry Dean

Stanton became a cult figure of music and when Debbie Harry sang the opening lyric “I want to dance with Harry Dean…” in her 1990s hit “I Want That Man”.


He was an incredibly talented musician 

Stanton had an impressive singing voice and first sang on screen in one of his most memorable appearances in “Cool Hand Luke” (1967), doing three numbers, including the hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” He had ambitions to be a writer and a musician as well as an actor, but, as he told the Observer in 2013, he “surrendered” to acting. He performed with his own band, as well as with peers like Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. For the 2012 documentary about Stanton the actor recorded a soundtrack featuring renditions of various folk songs.


He came face to face with an Alien

In Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), he was the spacecraft’s technician Brett who follows the cat into the engine room where he meets the xenomorph.

Harry Dean Stanton, Alien (1979)


He did a beautiful cover of ‘Canción Mixteca’

Stanton’s version of the traditional Mexican folk song was featured in Paris, Texas, and he later performed it live with is own band. Here he sings the ballad in a clip that aired in 1997, for the series Access All Areas.


Harry Dean Stanton passed away on Friday 15th September, 2017, from natural causes at the age of 91. RIP Harry Dean ♥

Harry Dean Stanton


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Author: 7 Deadly Things

Voted “Best Arts & Culture Blog” by you the people (thank you!) and was a finalist in the “Blog Awards Ireland 2018.” Catch our podcast Fridays on Dublin Digital Radio 11 – 12 noon.

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