NEW YORK (AP) — Dean Stockwell, a top Hollywood child actor who found new breakthrough in middle age in the sci-fi series “Quantum Leap” and in a string of indelible performances in film including David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” Vim . Vendors’ “Paris, Texas” and Jonathan Demme’s “Married to the Mob” have died. He was 85 years old.
Agent Jay Schwartz said Stockwell died of natural causes at home on Sunday.
Stockwell was Oscar-nominated for “Married to the Mob” for his comic mafia gangster and was a four-time Emmy-nominee for “Quantum Leap”. But in a career spanning seven decades, Stockwell was a supreme character actor, whose performances—lip-syncing Roy Orbison in Robert Altman’s “The Player,” Francis Ford in Howard Hughes, a desperate agent in “Blue Velvet,” to a nightmare Were. Coppola’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” – Doesn’t take long to be mesmerizing.
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The dark-haired Stockwell was a Hollywood legend by the time he reached his teens. In his 20s, he starred on Broadway as a young killer in the play “Majboori” and in iconic films like “Sons and Lovers.” He was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival twice, in 1959 for the big-screen version of “Completion” and in 1962 for Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Days Journey Into Night”. While he had some rough times in his career, he reached his full stride in the 1980s.
“My way of working is still the same as it was in the beginning—completely smooth and effortless,” he told The New York Times in 1987. “But as you live your life, you accumulate so many millions of experiences and information that you become a richer pot as a person. You gain more experience.”
His Oscar-nominated role as flamboyant gangster Tony “The Tiger” Russo in the 1988 hit “Married to the Mob” led to his most notable TV role the following year in NBC’s science fiction series “Quantum Leap.” There were strong comedic elements in both the roles.
In 1989 he said, “This is the first time anyone has offered me a series and the first time I want to do one.” “If people hadn’t seen me in Married to the Mob, they wouldn’t have realized I could do comedy.”
Scott Bakula, starring alongside Stockwell in “Quantum Leap”, played a scientist who, after a time-travel experiment, takes on different identities in different eras. His colleague, “The Observer”, was helped by Stockwell, but only seen on a holographic computer image. The show ran from 1989 to 1993.
He continued to play major and minor roles in films and TV into the 21st century, including a regular role in another science fiction series, “Battlestar Galactica”.
Stockwell became an actor at an early age. His father, Harry Stockwell, played Prince Charming in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and appeared in several Broadway musicals.
At age 7, Dean made her show business debut in the 1943 Broadway show “The Innocent Voyage,” a story about orphans entangled with pirates. His older brother, Guy, was also in the cast.
A producer at MGM was impressed by Dean and persuaded the studio to sign him. His first significant role was as Katherine Grayson’s nephew in the 1945 musical “Anchors Away”, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
Over the next few years, Stockwell appeared in such films as the Oscar-winning anti-Semitic drama “Gentlemen’s Agreement”, with Gregory Peck, as well as “Song of the Thin Man”, the last of the William Powell-Myrna Loy mystery. series, in which Stockwell plays his son.
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He had title roles in the 1948 anti-war film “The Boy with Green Hair”, about a war orphan whose hair changes color, and “Kim”, the 1950 version of Rudyard Kipling’s story, starring Errol Flynn. did. Films in his youth also included “Down to the Sea in the Ship” with Lionel Barrymore; “The Secret Garden” with Margaret O’Brien; and “Stars in My Crown” with Joel McCurry.
She told the Associated Press in 1989, “I was lucky enough to have a loving and caring and empathetic mother, not a stage mom.” Still, he insisted, it wasn’t always easy, and got out of business when he reached 16.
“I never really wanted to be an actor,” he said. “I found it very difficult to act from the beginning. I worked long hours, six days a week. It wasn’t fun.” It wasn’t the only time he dropped out. But, he said, “I came back every time because I didn’t have any other training.”
Reviving his career after five years, Stockwell returned to New York, where he co-starred on Broadway with Roddy McDowall in “Compulsion”, a 1957 drama based on the infamous Leopold-Loeb murder case in which two college students Students had murdered a 14 year old- old boy for the thrill of it. The film version starred Orson Welles.
Stockwell had two more iconic film roles in the early 1960s. He was the struggling son in D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”—an Oscar nominee for Best Picture—and the sensitive younger brother in “Long Days Journey into Night” with Ralph Richardson and Katharine Hepburn.
He also tried his hand at theater directing in 1961, working on a well-received program of Beckett and Ionesco plays in Los Angeles.
In 1960, Stockwell married Millie Perkins, best known for her role as Anne in the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank”. The marriage ended in divorce after only two years.
In the mid-60s, Stockwell dropped out of Hollywood and became a regular presence in the hippie enclave of Topanga Canyon. Following the encouragement of Dennis Hopper, Stockwell wrote a screenplay, which was never produced, but was inspired by Neil Young’s 1970 album “After the Gold Rush”, which took its name from Stockwell’s script. Stockwell, a longtime friend with Young, later co-directed and starred with Young in 1982’s “Human Highway.” Stockwell also designed the cover for Young’s 1977 album “American Stars ‘n Bars”.
In 1981 she married textile specialist Joy Marchenko. When his career declined, Stockwell decided to move his family to New Mexico. As soon as he left Hollywood, filmmakers started calling again.
He was cast as Harry Dean Stanton’s estranged brother in Wim Wenders’s acclaimed 1984 film “Paris, Texas” and in Lynch’s “Dune” the same year as the evil Dr. was taken as uh.
He called his success his “third career” from the 1980s. As for an Oscar nomination, he told the AP in 1989 that it was “something I’ve dreamed of for years. … It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Like his longtime friend Hopper, a noted photographer as well as an actor, Stockwell was active in the visual arts. He created photo collages and what he called “diceworks”, dice sculptures. He often used his full name Robert Dean Stockwell in his art projects.
His brother, Guy Stockwell, also went on to become a prolific film and television actor, even doing a guest shot on “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.
The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas contributed biographical information to this report.