Director John Carroll Lynch, along with cast members Ed Begley Jr., Yvonne Huff Lee, Beth Grant, Ron Livingston, James Darren, and Barry Henley, gathered at the Lynwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood and reminisced about working with Stanton.
Everyone involved, from the creative team to the actors, had the same simple response for what brought them to the project: Harry Dean Stanton.
Grant said she immediately clicked with Stanton. “We were so affectionate, hugging and kissing all the time. Well, I was hugging and kissing him,” she recalled. “One of my biggest thrills was sitting with David Lynch and Harry Dean Stanton and running lines before the scene. It was like a dream come true.”
The iconic character actor stars in the titular role as a quirky 90-year-old atheist who goes on a spiritual journey. “Lucky” was Stanton’s last on-screen performance before he died of natural causes at age 91, earlier in September.
In his directorial debut, John Carroll Lynch praised Stanton’s guidance. “Working with Harry Dean was a great boot camp for learning how to direct actors because he didn’t suffer fools,” he said. “He wanted to know why you wanted everything in the movie. He was meticulous, he was exacting, he was at times infuriating, and he was always inspiring.”
John Carroll Lynch also reminisced about memories from set. “There was a beautiful moment when we were in the midst of filming where we sat together quietly on the street. It felt so great to sit with him and just not need to say anything.”
Though other influences were peppered in, the character of Lucky was primarily structured after Stanton’s own outlook and beliefs. “This was such a special opportunity for him to say what he wanted to say and to reveal himself in a way that was as vulnerable as you can get as an actor,” the director said.
A long-time friend and former assistant of Stanton’s, Logan Sparks, co-wrote the film with Drago Sumonja, said his adulthood is split into before and after meeting Stanton. “We always knew we wanted to be collaborators with Harry, but we never figured out how to do it until Drago had this inspiration: Why don’t we just write what we know?” he said.
Executive producer Jason Delane Lee remembered interacting with Stanton at the film’s table read. “I’ve never come across an actor who used his silences as much as he used his lines,” he said. “You really knew what he was all about in simple, subtle moments.”
Before the movie screened, Sparks delivered a sarcastic message from Stanton to his friends, family, and fans: “He wanted me to say, from the bottom of his heart, that you’re nothing.”
The celebration culminated with a fiesta (a nod to a final scene in the movie) complete with an array of Mexican food and a live mariachi band.
“Lucky” is set to release on Sept. 29.