A perpetually haggard character actor with hound-dog eyes and the rare ability to alternate between menace and earnest at a moment's notice, Harry Dean Stanton has proven one of the most enduring and endearing actors of his generation. From his early days riding the range in Gunsmoke and Rawhide to a poignant turn in David Lynch's uncharacteristically sentimental drama The Straight Story, Stanton can always be counted on to turn in a memorable performance no matter how small the role. A West Irvine, KY, native who served in World War II before returning stateside to attend the University of Kentucky, it was while appearing in a college production of Pygmalion that Stanton first began to realize his love for acting. Dropping out of school three years later to move to California and train at the Pasadena Playhouse, Stanton found himself in good company while training alongside such future greats as Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall. A stateside tour with the American Male Chorus and a stint in New York children's theater found Stanton continuing to hone his skills, and after packing his bags for Hollywood shortly thereafter, numerous television roles were quick to follow.
Billed Dean Stanton in his early years and often carrying the weight of the screen baddie, Stanton gunned down the best of them in numerous early Westerns before a soulful turn in Cool Hand Luke showed that he was capable of much more. Though a role in The Godfather Part II offered momentary cinematic redemption, it wasn't long before Stanton was back to his old antics in the 1976 Marlon Brando Western The Missouri Breaks. After once again utilizing his musical talents as a country & western singer in The Rose (1979) and meeting a gruesome demise in the sci-fi classic Alien, roles in such popular early '80s efforts as Private Benjamin, Escape From New York, and Christine began to gain Stanton growing recognition among mainstream film audiences; and then a trio of career-defining roles in the mid-'80s proved the windfall that would propel the rest of Stanton's career. Cast as a veteran repo man opposite Emilio Estevez in director Alex Cox's cult classic Repo Man (1984), Stanton's hilarious, invigorated performance perfectly gelled with the offbeat sensibilities of the truly original tale involving punk-rockers, aliens, and a mysteriously omnipresent plate o' shrimp.