Dean Stockwell, an accomplished actor of stage and screen best known for his role in cult TV series Quantum Leap, has died. He was 85.
Born Robert Dean Stockwell in North Hollywood in 1936, it almost feels like he was fated to perform – his father, Harry, voiced Prince Charming in Disney’s Snow White, while his mother and younger sibling were also actors.
Stockwell’s parents had him on the stage at age seven, and he made his Broadway debut in 1943 with The Innocent Voyage. That led to a film contract at MGM, where he debuted on cinema screens in The Valley Of Decision. His contract led to 17 films in the next seven years, including Anchors Aweigh, The Boy With Green Hair and The Secret Garden.
Yet a marked feature of Stockwell’s career was his frequent desire to leave it – at the age of 16, with 20 movies already under his belt, he left Hollywood and roamed America for five years, working odd jobs. He returned to performing in 1957, nabbing the lead in a Broadway production of Compulsion, reprising the role for the film version, which scored him an acting award at Cannes, and then again for his performance in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Yet even with his success, he decided to ditch acting once again, spending time as a hippie hanging out with Dennis Hopper.
Still, Hollywood lured him back in the early 1970s, and he made a few shows and movies before leaving and then returning yet again, adding director to his CV for Human Highway, which he also starred in alongside Hopper. Even then he didn’t stick around, once more abandoning the business to sell real estate in New Mexico.
And – again – he returned, for supporting roles in a wide variety of movies before he met David Lynch and ended up cast in the 1984 adaptation of Dune and then Blue Velvet alongside his old friend Hopper. Jonathan Demme’s 1988 comedy Married To The Mob brought him a Supporting Oscar nomination.
Off the back of the nomination, Stockwell took the role that would make him cult famous to the widest audience – playing Admiral Al Calavicci, best friend and colleague to Scott Bakula’s time-traveller in Quantum Leap. He popped back up in sci-fi circles for the Battlestar Galactica remake that aired between 2006 and 2009.
With more than 200 roles on his CV, Stockwell finally retired from acting in 2015, focusing on his art and the convention circuit. “Dean was a gentle, gracious and one of a kind, a class act,” says his former manager Lesa Kirk. “Dean will truly be missed.”