Movie News & Reviews

Harry Dean Stanton Fest: back to the 1970s

Harry Dean Stanton attended a screening of Dillinger at the 2014 festival celebrating his career.
Harry Dean Stanton attended a screening of Dillinger at the 2014 festival celebrating his career. Herald-Leader

The Harry Dean Stanton Fest annually showcases the impressive film career of one of the most popular actors to come out of the Bluegrass State. Stanton’s career is so impressive, his filmography so varied and dense, you might feel sorry for anyone tasked with consistently putting together the perfect film festival honoring the 89-year-old actor and musician.


For Lucy Jones, the festival’s founder and a co-director of the Lexington Film League, the “Harry Dean magic” makes the job of compiling the featured films for the festival an enjoyable one.

“I always say that Harry Dean has always curated the film festival by himself, because in the process of picking his films over the years, he always picks pretty interesting projects,” Jones said. “Our job is pretty easy.”

Now in its sixth year, the Harry Dean Stanton Fest, Friday through Sunday at various venues in Lexington, will again highlight a mix of the actor’s widely seen films along with some hidden gems in his extensive body of work . In the selection process, Jones said, the first three films that came up were the the 1972 crime drama Cisco Pike (starring Gene Hackman and Kris Kristofferson), the 1975 thriller 92 in the Shade (starring Peter Fonda, Margot Kidder and frequent Harry Dean Stanton collaborator Warren Oates) and the 1978 Dustin Hoffman vehicle Straight Time (also starring Theresa Russell and Gary Busey).

If you hadn’t already noticed the time stamp on all of those films, the festival organizers did, eventually deciding to do a first-ever themed festival highlighting a decade.

“I do feel like the ’70s was a time where he was getting a little more traction with his career,” Jones said. “I think it was a very important time of building him as an actor.”

During the three-day festival, Stanton’s work will be presented in some lively settings. Based on the great response it got last year, the fest will again have a drive-in movie-style showing, this time showing Cisco Kid at dusk on opening night at the Break Room at Pepper Distillery. On Saturday night, what has become a Harry Dean Stanton Fest tradition will take place at The Green Lantern. After a screening of Flatbed Annie and Sweetie Pie: Lady Truckers, the 1979 TV movie starring fellow Kentuckian Annie Potts and Kim Darby, there will be a musical performance of ’70s female-driven rock by local bands The Binders, Palisades, John Ferguson, Coralee, Maggie Lander and Tree Jackson.

The festival’s final day will include a screening of the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien and will close with the John Huston-directed drama Wise Blood. The showing of the 1979 film based on the Flannery O’Connor novel will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s star, Brad Dourif, hosted by Clark Collis, writer for Entertainment Weekly and host of the Sirius XM radio show Entertainment Weirdly on Entertainment Weekly Radio.

A native of nearby Huntington, W.Va., Dourif has his own eclectic and lengthy filmography. His previous work includes his Oscar-nominated role as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), the voice of Chucky in the 1988 horror classic Child’s Play, the villainous Wormtongue in the fantasy blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and Doc Cochran in the HBO Western drama Deadwood.

Jones said she has tried for years to get Dourif to be involved with the festival and sees him and Stanton as somewhat kindred spirits.

“Even though they’ve only been in one film together, they’ve kind of skirted around each other for decades,” she said. “There’s a very finite number of actors who have a career with the breadth and depth of Harry Dean, but I think Brad is in that exclusive club.”

Dourif himself said he had a great time working with all of the immense talent on Wise Blood, and his chemistry with Stanton was instant when the two shot scenes together. He said Stanton’s skill as an actor combined with his choice of projects throughout his career has been a real gift for audiences.

“He takes something that’s strange and different and makes it accessible,” Dourif said. “He has a general audience well in mind, and he kind of brings them to something and takes them to some place they might not go otherwise.”

Blake Hannon:

If you go

Harry Dean Stanton Fest


June 10: Cisco Pike (1972), drive-in showing at the Break Room at Pepper, 1178 Manchester St. 8 p.m., film shows at dusk.

June 11: 92 in the Shade (1975), Farish Theatre at the Central Library, 140 E. Main St. 2 p.m.

Straight Time (1978), Farish Theatre. 4 p.m.

Flatbed Annie & Sweetie Pie: Lady Truckers (1979), Green Lantern Bar, 497 W. Third St. 8 p.m., followed by 10 p.m. party with 1970s female-driven rock by Palisades, The Binders, John Ferguson and Coralee. $8.

June 12: Alien (1979), Farish Theatre. 2 p.m.

Wise Blood (1979), Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. 7 p.m., followed by Q&A with star Brad Dourif and Entertainment Weekly writer Clark Collis. $10.