Harry Dean Stanton’s last feature film is now playing at theatres across the country, less than a month after the 91 year-old actor passed away. “Lucky” is the story of a elderly loner living the end of his life in small-town USA. Symbolism abounds in this directorial debut from actor John Carroll Lynch, who some may remember as Drew’s cross-dressing brother on The Drew Carey Show.

Lynch admits, “The story was absolutely written with Harry in mind. It was written as a love letter to the actor and the man. It is in essence, biographical. Lucky’s stories, his behaviour, are drawn from Harry’s life.”

From the opening scene of the slow moving tortoise (not a turtle) meandering through the dessert, to the closing scene of the slow moving tortoise meandering through the dessert, this feel-good movie is just what we need for an escape from our day-to-day routine, in exchange for a look at Lucky’s day-to-day routine. It’s described as “a mediation on mortality, loneliness, spirituality, and human connection.”

Each morning Lucky wakes up, turns on the radio, puts on the coffee, drinks a glass of milk, lights a smoke, has a sponge bath, and does a few yoga exercises.  It appears this has been his routine for quite sometime. He then walks into town to Joe’s diner, works on the daily crossword puzzle, drinks more coffee, picks up smokes at the variety store, and returns home to an afternoon of watch television game shows. In the evening he ventures out to Elaine’s  bar for a cocktail or two, some random conversations with regulars about life, then ventures back home to sleep, wake up, and begin the routine again. This is something many elderly people fall into – routine, loneliness, and being alone.

There are a couple nights when Lucky is in bed that we get more symbolism, the buzzing of insects outside on the screen of his open window projecting shimmering shadows across his face, perhaps a reflection of what’s inevitably in the near future. Or when he’s curled up in the fetal position while the Johnny Cash rendition of Will Oldman’s song, “I See A Darkness” plays on as another reflection of the end being near.

One day he receives a visit at home from Joe’s daughter from the diner. At first he’s perturbed by her unexpected visit, even though she admits she was just stopping by to check on him. He later asks her if she likes game shows, and she asks him if he smokes pot. They sit side-by-side on the couch, and although they missed the afternoon game shows, there is a program on showing Liberace playing at his best. Lucky remarks, ‘when this guy first came on the scene, I wrote him off as just another extravagant fruit.” He then questioned why he even cared about who he was sleeping with. Before they  part ways, he admits to her that he’s scared. Of what, is untold, and left to the viewer to determine. There’s another scene in the restaurant when he walks in to find people seated at “his” spot at the counter. He walks over and sits at a booth, then looking up, he sees the two younger guys canoodling, and just shakes his head. Was it the boys showing affection, or the fact they were in his seat? Again, viewers decide.

Harry Dean Stanton was working right up until his passing, playing the lead role in this feature film, and also contributing two songs to the soundtrack – “Red River Valley” and “Volver, Volver”. In his younger years, he wanted to either be a singer or actor, and chose actor as he’d be able to do both. His career began in the late 1950s, and he was already established in the industry by the following decade, starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s, “The Godfather: Part II”. He later had roles in sci-fi hits “Alien” and “Escape From New York” in the  70s, and in the 80’s he became somewhat of a cult legend with roles in “Paris, Texas”, “Repo Man”, and “Pretty in Pink”. He followed this by being cast in not one, but two, David Lynch films, “Wild At Heart”, and “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” In “Lucky”, David Lynch is cast as his long time friend Howard.

We never see Lucky eat at home or restaurant during the entire film, just a constant consumption of coffee and cigarettes. When he falls one day and visits his doctor, the doctor cannot determine why he has such a clean bill of health at his age. He admits he’s only growing stronger as he ages, and although against what he should be saying, the thinks quitting smoking at this age would be more harmful than helpful. He may have been right.

RIP – Harry Dean Stanton, and thanks for being you.


Favourite Lucky line in the movie –  “The only thing worse than awkward silence, is small talk.”

“A perfect Manhattan for Harry Dean Stanton” Lyrics from the closing song in the credits – Man in the Moonshine – Foster Timms

Harry singing with a Mariachi band at the Harry Dean Stanton Awards Show – October 2016 is quite similar to a scene in the movie.


Lucky had its red carpet premiere Thursday Sept 28th at the Harry Dean Stanton Fest in Lexington, Kentucky, before opening in theatres Friday Sept 29th. It also played at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier in September, and is now in full release at theatres across the country.

Harry Dean Stanton Fest 7: September 28 – 30, 2017

Beginning in February of 2011, the city of Lexington, Kentucky has proudly hosted a festival in honor of Kentucky born actor Harry Dean Stanton. Begun in an effort to both celebrate the diverse film work of this legendary cinematic icon and remind the community of his Lexington roots, the annual festival utilizes various venues throughout downtown Lexington for screenings, speakers, and Harry Dean Stanton related events.

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About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors, and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats. Reach out - bryen@thebuzzmag.ca