Harry Dean Stanton, the US actor with a gaunt, bedraggled look who laboured in virtual obscurity for decades until his breakthrough in the movie Paris, Texas, has died aged 91.

Stanton was best known for his roles in Twin Peaks, Big Love, Pretty in Pink and Repo Man.

He had a high-profile role as manipulative cult leader Roman Grant on HBO polygamy drama Big Love, which ran from 2006-11, and recently appeared as Carl Rodd in the Twin Peaks revival on Showtime.

His most recent film, Lucky, about an atheist who comes to terms with his own mortality, is scheduled for release later this month.

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In 1984, when he turned 58, Stanton not only starred in Paris, Texas - his first role ever as leading man - but in Alex Cox's popular cult film Repo Man.

The movie, penned by Sam Shepard, was the darling of the Cannes Film Festival, capturing not only the Palme d'Or but other juried awards as well.

Stanton was close friends with Jack Nicholson and was best man at Nicholson's 1962 wedding. They shared a house for more than two years after Nicholson's divorce.

Stanton never married, though he said he had "one or two children".

He died of natural causes on Friday in Los Angeles.

Tributes are already pouring in on social media as friends, family and the entertainment industry mourn this loss: