Actor Harry Dean Stanton has done a lot in his 50-year acting career: He revolutionized Hollywood’s expectations of what a leading role could be in the 1984 film Paris, Texas, served as a kind of coked-up nihilist Yoda to Emilio Estevez in Repo Man, came to a bad end in the movie Alien, and sang an old folk song to Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.
It turns out that singing plays more than just a bit part in the life of Harry Dean Stanton.
The new documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, is frequently punctuated by performances by the actor, featuring his voice, harmonica-playing, and even strums a little bit of guitar.
Soundcheck host John Schaefer coaxes a couple of live performances from the Hollywood legend and discusses a life lived on the silver screen.
Harry Dean Stanton, on performing music from a very young age:
I used to sing when I was six years old. When the family would leave the house, I’d get up on the stool and sing. “T for Texas, T for Tenessee, T for Thelma, the gal that made a wreck out of me.” I was in love with my babysitter. She was 18. I was six.
On whether he regrets not pursuing music as a career:
Regrets are [somewhat] unhealthy…. If I do get in [an] unhealthy state, I regret not following my musical career more. I’ve had chances to record albums, which I haven’t done. And I’ve sung with a lot of great people: [Kris] Kristofferson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan.
On how he convinced Kris Kristofferson to take the starring role in the film Cisco Pike:
The director comes running out and says, “I want you to scare [Kris].” Now he’s a boxer, a helicopter driver, all-American hero, and I’m supposed to scare him. So I see a beer bottle over in the corner, he knocks open the door, I break the beer bottle on the knob of the door, and I grab him by the shirt and put it under his chin. He was scared.