Stanton was born in West Irvine, Kentucky, the son of Ersel (née Moberly), a hair dresser, and Sheridan Harry Stanton, a tobacco farmer and barber. His parents divorced when Stanton was in high school and later re-married. He has two younger brothers, Archie and Ralph, and a younger half-brother, Stan. Stanton attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studied journalism and radio arts. He also studied at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California, where his classmates included his friends, Tyler MacDuff and Dana Andrews.
He also is known to be a big fan of classic rock and roll, his favourites including Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Stanton has appeared in both indie and cult films (Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter, Escape from New York, Repo Man), as well as many mainstream Hollywood productions, including Cool Hand Luke, The Godfather Part II, Red Dawn, Pretty in Pink, Stephen King's Christine and The Green Mile. He has been a favorite actor of Sam Peckinpah, John Milius, David Lynch, and Monte Hellman, and is also close friends with Francis Ford Coppola. He had a very small part in 1962's How The West Was Won as one of Charlie Gant's (Eli Wallach) gang.
Stanton is a favorite of film critic Roger Ebert who has said that "no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad." However Ebert later admitted that Dream a Little Dream (1989), in which Stanton appeared, was a "clear violation" of this rule.
His television credits are extensive, including eight appearances between 1958 and 1968 on CBS's Gunsmoke and four on the network's Rawhide, as well as a cameo as himself on Two and a Half Men, alongside Sean Penn and Elvis Costello. He has been featured since 2006 as Roman Grant, the manipulative leader/prophet of a polygamous sect in the HBO television series Big Love.
Stanton has also occasionally toured nightclubs as a singer/guitarist, playing mostly country-inflected cover tunes. He appeared in the Dwight Yoakam video, "Sorry You Asked", portrayed a cantina owner in a Ry Cooder video for "Get Rhythm" and participated in the video for Bob Dylan's Dreaming of You. -Taken from Wikipedia