When Harry Dean met Sharlto, in ‘Elysium’

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas

Kimberley French/TriStar Pictures

My favorite moment in “The Warhol Diaries” comes when Andy is introduced to Harry Dean Stanton. Harry Dean, bless him, turned 87 last month. He made his movie debut in 1955 (in Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man,” no less). Last year, he showed up in “The Avengers,” as a security guard. He’s one of the great Hollywood character actors — and characters.

In the late ’70s and ’80s Harry Dean had an amazing run. In 1979 alone, he was one of the crew in “Alien,” a country singer in “The Rose,” and the preacher Asa Hawks in “Wise Blood.” His annus mirabilis came in 1984. He was Mr. Eckert, in “Red Dawn”; the title character in “Repo Man” (a performance as magnificently weird as the movie itself); and, with a face as worn and biblical as the Southwestern landscape, the star of “Paris, Texas.”

Anyway, speaking of worn and biblical, here’s what Andy wrote about Harry Dean. “I always thought he was this teenager who looked really bad because he’d taken a lot of drugs, but it turns out he’s not a teenager — he’s almost sixty, so gee, he looks good!”


He also looks a lot like Sharlto Copley’s character in “Elysium” — or, rather Copley’s character looks a lot like Harry Dean, circa 1984. One of the pleasures of a lifetime of moviegoing is the emergence of pentimenti: how one character or situation or shot from an older movie will emerge from a character or situation or shot up on the screen. Such experiences can be deeply satisfying. In this case, it’s highly unsettling. Copley’s character, Kruger, is not, to put it mildly, a nice guy. The idea of Harry Dean doing some of the things we see Copley do in the movie kind of pulls the rug out from under his performance — or at least it does for those of us who cherish Harry Dean in all his Harry Dean-ness. Dystopian futures are meant to be bad, but surely not that bad.