?Even if you don’t know his name, you know his face. It’s that beaten and disheveled one at the end of the bar that looks like an old catcher’s mitt. It happens to belong to one of America’s greatest living character actors, Harry Dean Stanton, who has appeared in over 100 films and TV shows and at 84 years-old could probably still drink you under the table. In today’s world of polished Hollywood leading men and Disney Channel alumni “actors,” it’s comforting to know that real badasses like Harry are still ticking. What makes him a badass? Well, he fought in WWII. He was the man-of-honor at Jack Nicholson’s wedding and was later his roommate after Jack got divorced. He wrestled Marlon Brando to the ground for wearing a dress. And director Sam Peckinpah angrily threw a knife at him and Bob Dylan during the filming of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Stanton has been a favorite of directors such as David Lynch and John Carpenter. With such a range of experience, it’s no wonder he’s been in a grip of cult and nerd-favorite films. From the dark regions of space to the streets of dystopian New York, Stanton’s seen a lot of action. And he can still drink us all under the table.
6) Mr. Eckert in Red Dawn
Harry appears in Red Dawn for only about three minutes, but in that brief period of time he manages to clearly flesh-out the blue-collar Mr. Eckert; a man who’s made some mistakes in his life. Speaking to his sons Jed and Matt through the Soviet reeducation camp’s fence, Mr. Eckert tells them to move on and survive without them. But also to avenge him. His patriarchal order packs an emotional punch and it’s all done without any melodramatic over-acting on Harry’s part.
5) Rudolph Jenkins in Christine
In a lot of his roles, Stanton plays a character on the fringes of the law. That’s why his role as a straight-cut detective in John Carpenter’s Christine stands out. As Detective Jenkins, Stanton investigates the homicides surrounding Arnie Cunningham and his murderous car, Christine. Look for him at about 6:20 in the clip above — his is probably the best-dressed you will ever see Stanton in a movie.
4) Carl Rodd in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
David Lynch’s prologue/epilogue to his cult show Twin Peaks was a complete failure at the box office and was booed during its screening at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. One negative review stated that the film was incomprehensible for people unfamiliar with the show. Well, no shit. That’s why fans of the show love the film and the light it shed on the final days of Laura Palmer. In the film Stanton plays Carl Rodd, the surly manager of Canyon Trailer Court; the trailer park where victim Theresa Banks resided. Rodd hates to be woken up before 9:00am, but after he bonds with the FBI agents over a cup of “Good Morning America,” he becomes a little less standoffish. In the brief time he’s on-screen, Stanton is hilarious, depressing, and sincere in his implacability. Something tells me Stanton showed up in that robe and Lynch just let it ride.
For what it’s worth, Stanton also appears in the Lynch films Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, and Inland Empire.
3) Harold “Brain” Close in Escape from NY
During Snake’s quest through the prison of Manhattan in search of the stranded President, he seeks the aid of Brain — an acute criminal who has made the New York Public Library his fortress. Brain fills Snake in on the President’s captivity at the hands of the Gypsies and their leader, the Duke. It’s a good thing Snake sought out Brain’s help because it’s this clever criminal that actually manages to rescue the President while Snake is busy fighting pro-wrestler Ox Baker. Sadly, muscles and an eye-patch will get you further in this John Carpenter classic and all does not end well for the cunning Brain.
2) Brett in Alien
Being an engineering technician on board the commercial towing ship Nostromo isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It pays crap and you have to stay on board while everyone else gets to explore cool derelict ships. And when Jones the cat goes missing, Brett selflessly goes searching for the feline, only to encounter the full-grown alien. Bum deal. At least Parker tried to avenge his death.
1) Bud in Repo Bud
Along with Suburbia and Class of 1984, Alex Cox’s Repo Man is one of the great punk movies to come out of the early ’80s and a classic L.A. movie period. After punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) is betrayed by his whoring girlfriend and his hippie parents, he comes across Bud, a small-auto repo man who tricks Otto into participating in a job. Otto’s apprehensive at first, but the life of danger, coke, and money seduces him. Bud takes him under his wing and teaches him everything there is to know about the guile and guts it takes to repo, but for all his experience Bud isn’t prepared for a 1964 Chevy Malibu with two dead aliens in the trunk. Yeah, this movie rules. It’s hard not to say “in this film, Stanton is in top form,” because he never isn’t. But Bud is definitely the standout role in a legendary filmography
(and let’s just pretend Repo Chick is a bad dream).