Veteran film and television star Dean Stockwell, best known for his memorable role as Admiral Al Calavicci on the NBC hit sci-fi series Quantum Leap as well as many others, passed away at the age of 85 from natural causes earlier this week. In a career spanning eight decades, the actor was literally born into show business in North Hollywood in 1936, making his debut as a child star in the 1945 Gregory Peck feature The Valley of Decision. Growing up, he appeared with a number of silver screen greats such as Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Errol Flynn. His biggest recognition as a young actor was winning a Golden Globe for his performance in the 1947 feature Gentleman's Agreement that also featured Peck.
Dean Stockwell's Quantum Leap Legacy
Stockwell ended up winning his second Golden Globe in 1990 for Quantum Leap and subsequently nominated three additional times for the same category of Best Actor Supporting Role in a Series. He was also a four-time Emmy nominee from 1990-1993 for the series, which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself considering the series itself won six of them. The actor's diverse talent with dramas and comedy also landed him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for the 1988 comedy Married to the Mob opposite Michelle Pfeiffer as Tony 'The Tiger' Russo.
In Quantum Leap, Stockwell's Al was Dr. Sam Beckett's (Scott Bakula) invaluable temporal holographic guide that helped him complete missions with each body he lept into. The Donald P. Bellisario-created series focuses on Sam's time travels to help in a non-serialized, crisis-of-the-week format, trying to fix lives to set history right while swapping with the historical figure to enact the change. The constraint is that Sam can only leap with those within his lifetime, originally set before the turn of the century.
Bellisario and Bakula have discussed a possible reboot of the series, but nothing substantive as of yet. The finale has Sam repair Al's relationship with his estranged ex-wife and a title card that says he never leaped home. Stockwell reunited with Bakula in an episode of his CBS series NCIS: New Orleans in 2014 as Tom Hamilton before retiring in 2015. Prior to joining Leap, some other memorable roles include David Lynch's 1984 TV adaptation of Dune as Dr. Wellington Yueh and as Walt Henderson in the 1984 feature Paris, Texas. Since Leap, Stockwell had memorable turns in Star Trek: Enterprise, Stargate SG-1, Air Force One (1997), The Rainmaker (1997), Chicago Hope, The Langoliers, JAG, and many more. Here's a look at Bakula's statement on the passing of Stockwell that was issued to Deadline Hollywood:
I met Dean at his audition for Quantum Leap in 1988. He had agreed to 'read' for the Network, I was already cast. We connected immediately and my career and my life were changed that day in Brandon Tartikoff's office. How lucky were we to get him? A few months later he would be nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Married to the Mob, but he was stuck with us. Serendipity? All I know is, he never tried to get out or complain, he loved the role and the show and the rest was history.
He became a dear friend and a mentor and we grew very close over the next five, very intense years. Dean was such a passionate man…about life, his work, his art (he was an amazing artist!), his family, all kinds of causes, people, music, the planet, cigars, golf, and on and on! Having been a famous child actor, he had a soft spot for every young actor who came on our set. He was very protective of their rights and safety and always checked in with them to make sure that they were ok. His big hearted response to the kids made all of us take notice and be better guardians ourselves.
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.
I loved him dearly and was honored to know him. He made me a better human being…