“It’s been a favorite feeling in my whole life to be able to communicate without talking,” Harry Dean Stanton once said. “Communicating in silence in a powerful thing.” And when you look back on his extensive career, Stanton has spent his life playing roles that hinge on the moments in between. So much of his strength comes from his ability to emote without uttering a single word—his face, his body language, just the way he holds a cigarette speaks volumes above everyone else. With a depth of emotion and personality as cavernous and rough as the wrinkles that have given his face its distinction over the years, Stanton has become an staple of American cinema, working with some of the most iconic directors from David Lynch and Wim Wenders to Arthur Penn and John Huston.
And in Sophie Huber’s new documentary Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (released last weekend), we get a closer look at the life and melancholic world of the actor we know and love. At one point in the film, whilst drinking an enormous cup of coffee on the couch together, David Lynch asks him, “How do you see yourself?” to which Stanton responds, “There’s nothing, there is no self.” Typical, Stanton response. But throughout the film, through interviews his interviews, as well as with those he’s worked with, we gain a deeper understanding of the man who claims it “doesn’t matter” how he will be remembered. We also get to see the almost painful tenderness that resides inside him as he croons away singing everything from “Blue Moon” to “Cancion Mixteca.”
So from his days as character actor, to his most fascinating and immersive role in Paris, Texas and that which has come after, let’s take a look back on some of the best HDS moments. Enjoy.