The veteran actor already is generating awards buzz for his “performance of a lifetime.”
After completing a triumphant tour of the film festival circuit that began last spring when it earned applause from critics and audiences at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Lucky — director John Carroll Lynch’s independently produced comedy-drama starring Harry Dean Stanton — will arrive in theaters September 29. And trust us: If you aren’t lucky enough to see the movie before then, it’ll be worth the wait to relish this amusing and affecting comedy-drama, and to savor what has been aptly described as Stanton’s “performance of a lifetime.”
Stanton — whose lengthy résumé includes literally hundreds of TV and movie credits, many of them westerns — stars to perfection in the title role as a doggedly self-sufficient eccentric in an off-the-grid desert town who, despite his proudly independent streak, appears to enjoy more than not his interactions with neighbors and acquaintances. Having outlived and out-smoked all of his contemporaries — Stanton was 89 during the 18 days of filming, and Lucky appears to be in the same ballpark — he finds himself at the precipice of life, thrust into a journey of self-exploration and heading, he hopes, toward achieving a goal that is too often unattainable: enlightenment.
“The story was absolutely written with Harry Dean in mind,” says Lynch, a veteran character actor who makes his directorial debut with Lucky. “It was written as a love letter to the actor and the man. It is in essence, biographical. Lucky’s stories, his behavior are drawn from Harry’s life. [Screenwriter] Logan Sparks is an old friend of Harry’s as well, and that’s where the insight came from.
“An example of this is Lucky's first line in the film. He walks into Joe's Diner and says to Joe [Barry Shabaka Henley], “You’re nothing!” Joe replies, “You’re nothing!” And Lucky says, “Thank you!” This exchange is one captured from Harry going to Ago’s [a popular Italian restaurant in Los Angeles]. He and the valet have this exchange every time he goes in. It is how Harry feels about what we all are. Nothing.
“So, we all felt an immense responsibility to create from Harry's life, and from Harry’s interactions, a story about a man who suddenly brings into his heart that he might have weeks and months to live, not years and decades. It also had to reflect Lucky’s journey from something to nothing, but not through ‘bucket list’ experiences. No bank robberies, or jumping from planes. While those things are dramatic, they don’t represent most of our experiences. We change from the inside. Not the outside.
“But it definitely was created to celebrate Harry. That’s why the film in the titles says Harry Dean Stanton is Lucky.”
Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt, Beth Grant, James Darren, Barry Shabaka Henley, and David Lynch — yes, that David Lynch, creator of Twin Peaks — costar in Lucky as some of the folks who appear in the title character’s orbit, whether he wants them to be there or not.
“In some ways,” John Carroll Lynch says, “it feels as if the town understands Lucky better than Lucky understands himself. He thinks he is an island and until the events in the story transpire, he doesn't see himself as part of the community. But he has been a part of it forever.”
Here is the newly released trailer for Lucky.