As the final credits began to roll at Thursday night’s screening of “Lucky” at the Kentucky Theatre, the name Harry Dean Stanton flashed on the screen, and the audience erupted into louder applause and whoops and cheers as if the man was standing on stage.
He wasn’t, of course. Stanton died two weeks ago at the age of 91. But what the audience for the opening night of the Harry Dean Stanton Fest witnessed was about as perfect a final bow as an screen actor has had. Stanton plays the title character, a nonagenarian in a small desert town pretty much based on Stanton himself, down to Kentucky roots.
In a post-show Q&A with director John Carroll Lynch and screenwriter Drago Sumonja, Sumonja recalled talking to co-writer Logan Sparks, who was also Stanton’s longtime assistant, about potential projects.
“I don’t know what it was, but I said, ‘Since you’re with Harry all the time, I’d just write a movie for Harry — make a lead role for him in a really simple film where he just kind of plays himself,’” Sumonja said.
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In the Q&A, Sumonja and Carroll said there were many characteristics of Stanton present in the film, including his daily exercises and phrases like, “One of you will betray me.”
Carroll recalled putting together financing for the film and pointing out to investors, “our lead is 89. We might want to move forward on this, so a quick ‘No’ is super fine, so we don’t need to waste time talking.”
Carroll said they got a lot of people saying ‘Yes,’ both from the producing side and talent side, particularly David Lynch, who has directed Stanton many times, including the recent “Twin Peaks” reboot. He plays an eccentric town resident distressed over the disappearance of his tortoise, President Roosevelt. The cast was populated with longtime Stanton friends and collaborators including Ed Begley Jr. and Tom Skeritt, Stanton’s “Alien” (1979) co-star, who appears in a pivotal scene.
Sumonja and Carroll got into several deep questions about the end of the movie, and we have video of that we will save for later when more people have a chance to see the movie. “Lucky” opens today in theaters, but does not currently have a Lexington engagement. We’ll let you know if it comes here.
In closing, Carroll acknowledged the movie may not sound appealing, with Lucky contemplating mortality after a fall.
“It’s not the easiest sell, to say it’s this 90-year-old man thinking about death — not a terrific sales pitch,” Carroll said. “But it’s not about a man who’s thinking about death, it’s a man who’s thinking about living.”
The Harry Dean Stanton Fest continues Sept. 29 and 30.
If you go
Harry Dean Stanton Fest
Friday: “Paris, Texas” screening, Kentucky Theatre. 1 p.m. $6.
“The Green Mile” screening, Lyric Theatre, 300 E. Third St. $6.
John Doe in concert, The Green Lantern Bar, W. Third St. $12 advance, $15 at the door.
Saturday: “Fool for Love” screening, Central Library Farish Theatre, 140 E. Main St. 1 p.m. Free.
“Slam Dance” screening, followed by Q&A with musician and actor John Doe. 3 p.m. Farish Theatre. Free.
“The Straight Story” screening at Kentucky Fun Mall, 720 Bryan Ave. Includes mural unveiling. 7 p.m., film at dusk. Free.