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Dean Stockwell (1936–2021), “Quantum Leap” star

by Linnea Crowther

Dean Stockwell was an actor whose long career included memorable roles on TV in “Quantum Leap” and in movies including the original “Dune” and “Married to the Mob.”

Acting career

Stockwell began his career as a child actor, appearing in movies of the 1940s including “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Green Years,” and “Song of the Thin Man.” Though Stockwell was a prolific child star, he didn’t particularly like acting as a child. He took several years off from acting as a young adult before returning for movies including “Compulsion” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” Stockwell remained unsure about pursuing acting as a career, and he was considering leaving Hollywood in favor of real estate when Harry Dean Stanton (1926–2017) convinced him to join the cast of the 1984 movie “Paris, Texas.” It was the beginning of a career revival that kept Stockwell busy for decades.

After “Paris, Texas,” Stockwell had a notable supporting role in “Dune,” playing Doctor Wellington Yueh. Well-received performances followed, including “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Blue Velvet,” “Beverly Hills Cop II,” and “Married to the Mob,” for which he received an Oscar nomination for his work playing Tony “The Tiger” Russo. In 1989, Stockwell took one of his best-known roles, starring as Admiral Al Calavicci in the time-travel TV show “Quantum Leap.” He was nominated for four Emmy Awards for his performance.


Stockwell had recurring roles on later TV shows including “JAG” and the 21st century “Battlestar Galactica” reboot. His later movies included “The Player,” “Mr. Wrong,” and “The Rainmaker.” His final role was in the 2016 film “Max Rose,” for a career spanning more than 70 years.

Stockwell on his favorite film: “Married to the Mob”

“That’s the favorite part I’ve ever had in a film.  I just felt that that part was just perfect for me and I had a way to approach it that I thought was just right and it turned out that way.  I loved Jonathan Demme and he let me run with it and do what I wanted with it and it was a fantastic experience.  And of course, it was very important for my career.  It was astounding.  I got a lot of recognition.  I got the National Board of Review award, the New York Film Critics award and the Oscar nomination.  Of course, I didn’t get the Oscar, but it was very moving.  Some people might pooh-pooh it and say it didn’t mean anything, but it does.  It’s really gratifying to get the recognition from your peers.” —from a 1995 interview for Psychotronic Video

Tributes to Dean Stockwell

Full obituary: Deadline

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