Dean Stockwell, 'Quantum Leap' Star and Former Child Actor, Dies at 85
Dean Stockwell, a child star of the 1940s who went on to rack up an incredible 200+ credits across his 70-year, on-again, off-again career in Hollywood, died Sunday in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, Variety reports.
He was 85.
Born March 5, 1936, into a family of entertainers in Hollywood — his dad was Harry Stockwell, a Broadway actor and the voice of the Prince in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) — Stockwell joined his older brother, Guy Stockwell, in auditioning for their first Broadway play in 1943. They both won roles and went on to success on TV and in films.
The younger Stockwell landed a contract with MGM, making his film debut in 1945's "The Valley of a Decision," starring Gregory Peck and Greer Garson.
As a youngster, he was in demand as a cherubic child actor, appearing in films that included the classics "Anchors Aweigh" (1945) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, the anti-Semitism drama "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), "Song of the Thin Man" (1947), and in the title role of the anti-war allegory "The Boy with Green Hair" (1948).
He was largely disenchanted with the experience of acting, so took time off before returning in the 1950s. Working his way back up via TV and small features, he made a huge impression in the Broadway production of "Compulsion" (1957), based on the story of thrill killers Leopold & Loeb, and reprised the role to great acclaim in the 1959 film.
In 1962, he again impressed in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" with Katharine Hepburn and Jason Robards, but left acting again by mid-decade. This time, his sabbatical was to "drop out" and participate in hippie culture, try drugs, seek out artistic stimulation, and experiment with free love.
He returned to acting in 1968, leaning more heavily into TV roles, including as a murder victim on a 1972 episode of "Columbo."
In his 50s, when many actors find themselves at the ends of their careers, Stockwell got his real estate license and prepared to bolt the industry. Instead, a call from actor Harry Dean Stanton led to him joining the cast of Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas" (1984) and giving a knockout performance that showed he was just getting a second wind.
I only met Dean Stockwell twice but he had a big impact on me. The first time was at a film festival where Paris Texas was playing. He came across the room and boomed, "Hello John!" and stuck out his hand. Like he was saying "welcome to our world, kid!" If they were all like him
Things continued to pick up with a mercurial performance in David Lynch's much-maligned "Dune" (1984), which led to his casting as effete Ben, the pansexual pimp who creepily lip-synchs to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" and exudes malevolence in Lynch's "Blue Velvet" (1986).
He was Oscar-nominated for one of his favorite performances, as Tony "The Tiger" Russo in Jonathan Demme's Michelle Pfeiffer mafia comedy "Married to the Mob" (1988), and was comparably praised for his portrayal of Howard Hughes in "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" (1988).
In 1988, The New York Times profiled the resurgent actor, who said his nearly lifelong relationship with the movies was due to his "intuition. Somehow, I was able to find an accommodation with the camera as a child and it became almost like an ally. I got on very intimate terms with it."
RIP #DeanStockwell. I worked with him on Quantum Leap and he had the best, "this isn't really serious," attitude. His charisma and charm was effortless.
From 1989-1993, Stockwell appeared on TV's "Quantum Leap" with Scott Bakula, a role that brought him four Emmy nominations and his Golden Globe, and the role for which he would be most famous.
In a long, loving statement to Deadline, Bakula said of Stockwell, "In spite of having a career that came and went several times during his seventy plus years in the business, he was always grateful and delighted to have the chance to keep working. The only time he ever complained was when we called him on the golf course and told him we were ready for him to come to work! He used to announce his presence on the sound stage (if we hadn’t already caught a whiff of cigar smoke trailing in behind him), with a bellowed, 'The fun starts now!' Truer words were never spoken."
He continued working at a feverish pace, and enjoyed two more TV hits with a recurring role on "JAG" (2002-2004) and as John Cavil on "Battlestar Galactica" (2006-2009).
After a film released in 2015 called "Entertainment" and his last TV appearance, on an episode of Bakula's "NCIS: New Orleans" (2014), Stockwell, who was also a sculptor, retired.
Married and divorced twice, including a union with "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959) star Millie Perkins, he is survived by his two children.