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Q: I saw a rerun of "Two and a Half Men" in which Charlie was part of a support group. Elvis Costello and Sean Penn were members, along with an older guy who I didn't recognize. The joke was they're all famous, and so I probably should know who he is.

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Harry Dean Stanton has been around for so long, and been in so many major, well-watched productions that, yes, you probably should know him.

His weathered, well-lined face -- which has looked that way for years, by the way, not just recently -- has been in such landmark films as classic (and diverse) as 1979's "Alien" and 1986's "Pretty In Pink."

However he's been around a lot longer than that. He started out doing the old war-and-western circuit where so many actors of his era got their start. There seemed to be an endless number of those films being made in the late '50s and '60s, and they featured a seemingly endless number of young-enlisted-man, ranch-hand and bad-guy-gang-member roles on which an actor could cut his teeth.

He wouldn't truly find his niche until much later, though, when a couple of indie directors would take up his cause. First it was German auteur Wim Wenders, who gave Stanton the lead in "Paris, Texas" (1984). David Lynch fell for him, too, and cast him in several of his films, most notably the oddball 1990 dramedy "Wild at Heart."

He's appeared in more than 100 films since his debut in 1956, but he hasn't been exclusively a big-screen man. He's also done plenty of television, beyond his "Two and a Half Men" guest spot. His most notable recent turn was a lead one in the hit HBO series "Big Love," playing Roman Grant, the morally questionable head of a religious compound.

In fact, it was on TV where he got his start, again mostly in westerns -- he appeared in eight episodes of the TV classic "Gunsmoke," but never played the same character twice.

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