Harry Dean Stanton wasn’t a leading man type, but he was versatile and could play complex characters in any genre. His credits include The Godfather II, Alien, Escape from New York, Repo Man, and Pretty in Pink, just to name a few. He passed away of natural causes yesterday at the age of 91.

The New York Times reports:

Harry Dean Stanton, Character Actor Who Became a Star, Dies at 91

Harry Dean Stanton, the gaunt, hollow-eyed, scene-stealing character actor who broke out of obscurity in his late 50s in two starring movie roles and capped his career with an acclaimed characterization as a corrupt polygamist on the HBO series “Big Love,” died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

His death, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was confirmed by his agent, John S. Kelly.

Mr. Stanton spent two decades typecast in Hollywood as cowboys and villains before his unusual talents began to attract notice on the strength of his performances in the movies “Straight Time” (1978); “Alien,” “Wise Blood” and “The Rose” (all 1979); and “Escape From New York” (1981).

In those roles — as a former criminal bored in the law-abiding world, a 22nd-century space traveler, a street preacher pretending to be blind, a devastatingly cruel country-music star and a crazed demolitions expert — his look and his down-home voice were the same, but his characters were distinct and memorable.

Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times in 1978 that Mr. Stanton’s “mysterious gift” was “to be able to make everything he does seem immediately authentic.” The critic Roger Ebert once wrote that Mr. Stanton was one of two character actors (the other was M. Emmet Walsh) whose presence in a movie guaranteed that it could not be “altogether bad.”

The Hollywood Reporter noted Stanton’s natural style:

Stanton was great pals with actor Jack Nicholson, and they roomed together in a Laurel Canyon house on Skyline Drive in the early 1960s. (Nicholson moved in after sharing a place with screenwriter Robert Towne.) They first appeared together in Monte Hellman’s Ride in the Whirlwind (1966), which Nicholson also wrote, and Stanton always said he learned about “acting natural” from that experience.

“Harry, I’ve got this part for you. His name is Blind Dick Reilly, and he’s the head of the gang. He’s got a patch over one eye and a derby hat,” Stanton, in a 2008 interview with Esquire, recalled Nicholson pitching him. “Then he says, ‘But I don’t want you to do anything. Let the wardrobe play the character.’ Which meant, just play yourself. That became my whole approach.”

Here’s a video report from Entertainment Tonight:

Here are some classic clips:

Repo Man (1984)

Pretty in Pink (1986)

And finally, Red Dawn (1984)

Thank you for the memories Mr. Stanton. Rest in peace.

Featured image via YouTube.