NEW YORK (AP) – Dean Stockwell, a leading Hollywood child actor, has achieved new mid-life success in the sci-fi series Quantum Leap and in a series of memorable movie roles, including Blue Velvet, by David Lynch and Wim. “Paris, Texas” by Wenders and “Married to the Mafia” by Jonathan Demme are dead. He was 85 years old.
Agent Jay Schwartz, a spokesman for the family, said Stockwell died a natural death at home on Sunday.
Stockwell was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a thief in law in Marry the Mafia and four Emmy nominations for Quantum Leap. But in a career spanning seven decades, Stockwell has been an outstanding character actor whose plays include Roy Orbison’s lip-synching at a nightmarish party at Blue Velvet, a desperate agent in Robert Altman’s The Player, Howard Hughes at Francis Ford. Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream doesn’t have to be long to be mesmerizing.
Stockwell’s own relationship with acting, which began on Broadway at age 7, has been challenging. During his itinerant career, he retired from show business several times, including at the age of 16 and again in the 1980s when he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to sell real estate.
“Dean has dreamed his whole life between fame and anonymity,” his family said in a statement. “Because of that, when he had a job, he was grateful. He never took business for granted. He was a rebel, insanely talented and was always a breath of fresh air. ”
Dark-haired Stockwell was a Hollywood veteran by his teens. In his 20s, he starred on Broadway as a young assassin in the play Compulsion and in prestigious films such as Sons and Lovers. He was honored twice for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival: in 1959 for the widescreen version of Compulsion and in 1962 for Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Journey of a Long Day Into Night. Although his career has gone through rough times, he reached his full bloom in the 1980s.
“My way of working remains the same as in the beginning – completely intuitive and instinctive,” he told The New York Times in 1987. “But, living your life, you accumulate so many millions of experiences and pieces of information. that you as a person become a richer vessel. You rely on more experience. “
His Oscar-nominated role as Tony “Tiger” Russo, the flamboyant gangster, in the 1988 hit “Married to the Mafia” led to his most notable television role the following year on NBC’s sci-fi series Quantum Leap. Both roles had strong comic elements.
“This is the first time I’ve been offered a series, and the first time I’ve ever wanted to do it,” he said in 1989. “If people hadn’t seen me in Married to the Mafia, they wouldn’t have understood. I could do a comedy. “
Starring Stockwell in Quantum Leap was Scott Bakula, who plays a scientist who takes on different personalities in different eras after the time travel experiment failed. Like his fellow Observer, Stockwell provides assistance, but he can only be seen in a holographic computer image. The show ran from 1989 to 1993.
He continued to play big and small roles in film and television throughout the 21st century, including regular roles in another sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica.
Stockwell became an actor at an early age. His father, Harry Stockwell, voiced the role of Prince Charming in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and has appeared in several Broadway musicals.
At age 7, Dean made his show business debut on the 1943 Broadway show Innocent Journey, about orphans associated with pirates. His older brother Guy was also in the cast.
Producer MGM was impressed with Dean and convinced the studio to sign him. His first significant role was as nephew Catherine Grayson in the 1945 musical Anchors Away, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
Over the next few years, Stockwell starred in films such as the Oscar-winning anti-Semitic drama The Gentlemen’s Accord with Gregory Peck, and The Song of a Thin Man, the latest of the mysteries of William Powell and Myrna Loy. a TV series where Stockwell plays their son.
He had starring roles in the 1948 anti-war film The Boy with Green Hair, about a war orphan whose hair changes color, and Kim, a 1950 Rudyard Kipling tale starring Errol Flynn. Films from his youth include Ships to the Sea with Lionel Barrymore; The Secret Garden, starring Margaret O’Brien; and Stars in My Crown with Joel McCree.
“I am very fortunate to have a loving, caring and responsive mother, not a stage mother,” he told The Associated Press in 1989. However, he stressed that it wasn’t always easy and he quit the business when he reached 16.
“I never wanted to be an actor,” he said. “From the very beginning, it was very difficult for me to play. I worked many hours, six days a week. It wasn’t fun. ” This was not the only time he dropped out. But he said, “I came back every time because I didn’t have any other workouts.”
After resurrecting his career five years later, Stockwell returned to New York, where he co-starred with Roddy McDowell on Broadway in Compulsion, a 1957 drama based on the infamous Leopold-Loeb murder in which two college students killed 14 year old boy. old man for the thrill of it. The film version stars Orson Welles.
In the early 1960s, Stockwell had two more prestigious film roles. He was a struggling son in JG Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers – an Oscar nominee for Best Picture – and a sensitive younger brother in A Long Day Into Night’s Journey opposite Ralph Richardson and Katharine Hepburn.
He also tried his hand at theater directing, staging a well-received program of plays by Beckett and Ionesco in Los Angeles in 1961.
In 1960, Stockwell married Millie Perkins, best known for her role as Anna in the 1959 film Anne Frank’s Diary. The marriage ended in divorce just two years later.
In the mid-60s, Stockwell retired from Hollywood and began to appear regularly in the hippie enclave of Topanga Canyon. After the support of Dennis Hopper, Stockwell wrote a screenplay that was never produced but inspired him to create Neil Young’s 1970 album “After the Gold Rush”, named after Stockwell’s screenplay. Stockwell, longtime friends with Young, later co-directed and co-starred with Young in the 1982 film People’s Highway. Stockwell also designed the cover for Young’s 1977 album American Stars’ N Bars.
In 1981 he married Joy Marchenko, a textile expert. When his career hit a recession, Stockwell decided to take his family to New Mexico. As soon as he left Hollywood, the filmmakers started calling again.
He was cast as Harry’s drifting brother Dean Stanton in Wim Wenders’ acclaimed 1984 film Paris, Texas, and the same year as the evil Dr. Yue in Lynch’s Dune.
He called his success since the 1980s his “third career”. Regarding the Oscar nomination, he told AP in 1989 that this is “what I’ve dreamed of for years. … It’s just one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. “
Like his longtime friend Hopper, a renowned photographer and actor, Stockwell was active in the visual arts. He made photo collages and what he called “needlework”, sculptures from dice. He often used his full name Robert Dean Stockwell in his art projects.
His brother, Guy Stockwell, has also become a successful film and television actor, even appearing as a guest in Quantum Leap. He died in 2002 at the age of 68.
Stockwell is survived by his wife Joy and their two children, Austin Stockwell and Sophie Stockwell.
Bob Thomas, a late Associated Press writer, contributed biographical information to this report.