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Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017): His most memorable roles

Marcus Errico
Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo Movies

Harry Dean Stanton, the sardonic, iconoclastic actor whose off-kilter presence enlivened films and TV series ranging from The Avengers to Pretty in Pink to Big Love, died Sept. 15 at age 91. A character actor and occasional leading man for nearly seven decades, Stanton stayed active into old age, recently appearing in Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival. Here’s a look at his greatest roles.

‘The Avengers’ (2012)

The actor pops up in a comedic cameo as a gobsmacked security guard who can’t believe his eyes when the Hulk falls out of the sky and transforms into Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).

(Photo: Disney)

‘Big Love’ (2006-2011)

In the acclaimed HBO series, Stanton played Roman Grant, patriarch and “prophet” of a polygamist community, who ends up getting smothered to death as payback for his nefarious, perverted scheming.

(Photo: HBO)

‘The Green Mile’ (1999)

Stanton plays a prison guard nicknamed Toot-Toot who works on death row under Tom Hanks’s Paul Edgecomb in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s fantasy-drama.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

‘Twin Peaks’ (1992, 2017)

A longtime friend and frequent collaborator of David Lynch’s, Stanton joined the Twin Peaks weirdness in the 1992 feature film Fire Walk With Me, playing the manager of the Fat Trout Trailer Park, a role he recently reprised in Showtime’s series revival.

(Photo: New Line Cinemas/courtesy Everett Collection)

‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ (1988)

In Martin Scorsese’s controversial Jesus story, which deviates from the traditional gospel, Stanton plays the apostle Paul, who refuses to believe that Jesus (Willem Dafoe) has ascended to Heaven.

(Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986)

In one of his meatiest movie roles, Stanton stars as Molly Ringwald’s down-on-his-luck dad, who tries to make things right with his daughter by giving her a pink prom dress in the John Hughes-scripted teen classic.

(Photo: Everett Collection)

‘Paris, Texas’ (1984)

Stanton has one of his few true starring roles in Wim Wenders’s eccentric road-trip film as a man who, after a bout of amnesia, reunites with his young son and embarks on a journey to find his long-lost wife.

(Photo: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection)

‘Repo Man’ (1984)

Stanton plays the repo man, Bud, who recruits and mentors Emilio Estevez in the bonkers sci-fi cult classic.

(Photo: Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

‘Christine’ (1983)

Stanton, per usual, steals scenes as the detective in the John Carpenter-helmed adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a demonic Plymouth Fury.

(Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

‘Escape From New York’ (1981)

In John Carpenter’s dystopian sci-fi classic, Stanton co-stars as Brain (“Don’t Call Me Harold”), one of the guys who help Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken (spoiler alert!) escape from New York.
(Photo: Avco Embassy/courtesy Everett Collection)

‘Private Benjamin’ (1980)

Stanton memorably plays the Army recruiter who encourages Goldie Hawn’s wayward title character to sign up for the military by promising her it will be like a spa vacation.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

‘Alien’ (1979)

Stanton is the cat-loving technician Brett on the salvage ship Nostromo, who winds up in a close encounter of the wrong kind with the Xenomorph.

(Photo: 20th Century Fox Film)

‘The Godfather: Part II’ (1974)

Stanton had a small role in Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling Mafia sequel, playing one of the FBI agents assigned to protect a made man who turns into the state’s witness.

(Photo: The Coppola Company)

‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ (1971)

Stanton stood out in a small role as a gay hitchhiker in Monte Hellman’s counterculture classic starring James Taylor, Warren Oates, Dennis Wilson, and their revved-up GTO.

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967)

After years of TV bit parts, Stanton scored an early film role (billed as “Dean Stanton”) as a convict called Tramp in this classic Paul Newman-fronted prison drama.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

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