So-called "character actors" are much maligned, at least until they become "movie stars." One case in point might be the amazing Harry Dean Stanton, who although he has appeared in over 200 films, might be unknown to many (particularly younger folk). Beyond his prolific body of work in films great to mediocre to awful, he offers a spookily resonant presence. Sometimes this has been used to great advantage, as in Wim Wenders' film from Sam Shepard's screenplay Paris, Texas. In that role, Stanton didn't even utter a word for the first third of the movie, but was intensely, compellingly watchable. Just saw a rather pedestrian European documentary on this riveting subject, and if you are interested in Stanton at all, it's probably still worth a look (trailer below). As this "actor's actor" is generally taciturn and dry, many of the comments are left to "star" friends including David Lynch (who directed Stanton in six films) and Debbie Harry (who wrote a song about him). In Wenders' estimation, Stanton "allowed himself to be very vulnerable. ... he dared to be fragile." I'm now keen to revisit some of Stanton's voluminous filmography, including Repo Man, the Missouri Breaks, Alien, and The Straight Story. Many will be most familiar with his creepy Mormon patriarch on HBO's Big Love. Stanton consistently evinces so much emotional resonance in even his slightest roles, yet shrugs off a lot of his formidable craft as "playing himself."
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