However, as time went on he found himself making notable appearances in films such as Alien, Escape from NY, and Repo Man.
Director David Lynch, a frequent collaborator, says everyone loved Stanton, who was great as a human being and beyond great as an actor.
Largely a character actor throughout his career, Stanton will often be remembered for small yet memorable roles in great films.
"He played particular roles and was a natural in them", said Mills, who recalled how feeble Stanton was when he appeared at the Lexington festival in 2014 with actress Michelle Phillips. But more general audiences will probably recognize Stanton from a brief part where he interacts with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in The Avengers in 2012.
Stanton never married, although he had a long relationship with actress Rebecca De Mornay, 35 years his junior. "Harry Dean Stanton. My heart is broken, but at 91.a life well lived", Begley tweeted. "There went a great one.everybody loved him".
A cause of death for Harry Dean Stanton has yet to be determined.
By his mid-80s, the Lexington Film League in his native Kentucky had founded the Harry Dean Stanton Fest and filmmaker Sophie Huber had made the documentary "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction", which included commentary from Wenders, Sam Shepard and Kristofferson.
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Harry Dean Stanton was shining as the first plan. Deborah Harry, whom he also dated, recorded a 1989 song for him, "I Want That Man".
Born in Kentucky, Stanton served in the Navy during World War II and then attended the University of Kentucky for journalism and radio.
The legendary actor is best known for his roles in "Twin Peaks", "Alien" and "The Godfather II".
A close friend of Hollywood luminaries Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn and Marlon Brando, Stanton worked with David Lynch on Twin Peaks. Shepard offered Stanton the role of Travis, whose tortured, broken soul is nearly mute for the whole hauntingly attractive film. Occasionally you would hear Stanton sing; music was his other love - he sang and played harmonica onstage and off. He redefined acting for me.
Stanton's more recent work includes playing polygamist patriarch Roman Grant in TV's "Big Love" and a voice role in animated feature "Rango" with Johnny Depp.
Hollywood has lost one of its stars, Harry Dean Stanton is off this Friday.