Hollywood lost a legend when the prolific Harry Dean Stanton passed at the age of 91, now, as we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years, his peers are paying tribute to him on Twitter, with David Lynch making one of the most simple and poignant statements: “There went a great one.”
“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 you wherever you are now!!!”
The two have collaborated for nearly 30 years, starting with Lynch’s 1988 short-film The Cowboy and the Frenchman. In the documentary on Stanton’s life: Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, Lynch said: “I’ve got a list of all the films Harry Dean was in: The Cowboy and the Frenchman, Wild at Heart, Hotel Room, The Straight Story, Inland Empire, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” To which Stanton replied: “We’re a team.” Lynch, in turn, said: “Yep!”
It was a real Lynch/Stanton conversation.
In 2017, the two friends and collaborators got back together when Stanton reprised his role of Carl Rodd, the curmudgeonly trailer park owner in the third season of Twin Peaks. It was a small role, and in the grand scheme of the story (and in typical Lynch fashion), it’s difficult to make sense of what Stanton’s presence meant in the overall scheme of the story (he was, after all, an original Bookhouse Boy), but he was still brilliant and natural, even pushing 90 years old when the third season was filmed.
Whether it was his role as the father wanting vengeance in Red Dawn, or most recently Carl Rodd making sure someone got paid for an honest day’s work so they didn’t have to sell their blood, Stanton had a way of grounding every scene he was in. His performances were real. For some actors with encyclopedia-length resumes, it’s difficult to separate the character from the actor, but when you watched Stanton, he gave off a sort of warmth and humanity that transcended the lens.
Even in obtuse art films made by his buddy David Lynch.