If you get Dabney Coleman talking long enough about what made his frequent co-star and long-time friend Harry Dean Stanton special as an actor, he may not end up talking about Harry Dean at all.
The 86-year-old comedic and character actor best known for roles in films like “War Games,” “Nine to Five,” “The Towering Inferno” and “On Golden Pond” felt like one of the best ways to describe sharing the screen with Stanton was an interview he recalled with renowned ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov where he talked about his admiration of legendary dancer Fred Astaire.
“People would always say it was easy to dance with him and you do you best dancing when you’re dancing with him,” Coleman said. “It’s the same with acting, I believe, and that’s what Harry Dean did.”
Both Coleman and Stanton were well-established actors who admired each other’s work when they began their personal and professional friendship in their 50s. The two appeared on both the big and small screen together on the Norman Lear-produced seventies soap opera parody “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and the 1982 comedy “Young Doctors in Love.”
When they were not on screen, they were “shooting the s---” at their regular hangout, Dan Tana’s in West Hollywood.
As a man who has shared plenty of drinks, screen time and conversations with Stanton, Coleman said the Kentucky-born actor had a realness to who he was that found its way into every role.
“He was so relaxed when he was doing it, he wasn’t like acting, he was behaving,” he said. “No one did it better. Nobody, and nobody even tries to.”
Coleman will be coming to this year’s Harry Dean Stanton Fest Sunday night to participate in a Q&A session following screening of “Char·ac·ter,” the 2009 documentary on the craft of acting featuring interviews with Stanton, Coleman and fellow actors Peter Falk and Sydney Pollack, among others. The Q&A session will also feature the film’s director Drago Sumonja, who co-wrote Stanton’s last feature film “Lucky” before the actor passed away last year at the age of 91.
Coleman said that in every stage of Harry Dean Stanton’s career, whether he was hanging out with the “flower people” in the ‘60s and the likes of Bob Dylan and Jack Nicholson or continued to work in his later years, there were always people who were drawn to him for both what he did and who he was.
“The thing about Harry Dean is you don’t have to look hard to find a reason to want to know him better,” Coleman said. “People just reacted to him, whether you were acting with him or whether you were watching him. They were in awe of him. ”
IF YOU GO
Harry Dean Stanton Fest
▪ Screening of “Crossing Mulholland” followed by Q&A session with Tom Thurman, Jim Huggins, Jim Huggins Jr., Jamie James and Donnie Fritts. Farish Theater (7 p.m., Free).
▪ Dennis Quaid and the Sharks. The Burl, 375 Thompson Rd. (10 p.m. $20). Tickets: ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1685935.
▪ Screening of “Young Doctors in Love.” Farish Theater (11 a.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Private Benjamin.” Farish Theater (1 p.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Repo Man.” Farish Theater (3 p.m., Free).
▪ Harry Dean Stanton Trivia with Local Trivia Action. The Burl. (7 p.m., Free).
▪ Donnie Fritts/Western Movies. The Burl. (9 p.m., $12). Tickets: ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1685937 .
▪ Screening of “The Missouri Breaks.” Farish Theater (1 p.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Lucky.” Farish Theater (3:30 p.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Char-ac-ter.” Kentucky Theatre, followed by panel discussion with Dabney Coleman, (7 p.m., $10). showclix.com/event/characterscreening