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The Devastating Death Of Dean Stockwell

Legendary film and television actor Dean Stockwell has died at the age of 85. A representative for the family confirmed to Deadline that the star died peacefully of natural causes at his New Mexico home the morning of Sunday, November 7, 2021. He is survived by his wife, Joy Stockwell, and two adult children, Austin Stockwell and Sophie Stockwell.

Stockwell's most notable role was Admiral Al Calavicci on NBC's early '90s sci-fi drama "Quantum Leap," but the prolific character actor will forever be known as a charismatic screen presence who's range truly knew no bounds. His lauded, nearly seven-decade screen career started at age nine, with a role in 1945's Gregory Peck vehicle "The Valley of Decision." Stockwell spent his formative years alongside legends of Hollywood's Golden Era, including Janet Leigh, Katherine Hepburn, and Orson Welles, before establishing himself as an indie darling as well, with roles in Wim Wenders' critically-adored 1984 drama "Paris, Texas," and David Lynch's "Dune" and "Blue Velvet." His turn in Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob" earned Stockwell an Oscar nomination." 

Stockwell returned to episodic TV with work on "JAG," as well as a standout performance in another beloved sci-fi series, "Battlestar Galactica." He officially retired from acting after suffering a stroke in 2015 (via 50+ World). His last screen appearance came in Rick Alverson's lauded indie dramedy "Entertainment," but after recovering from his stroke, Stockwell continued to keep himself busy in artistic endeavors. 

Dean Stockwell road to stardom was no straight path

According to Deadline, Stockwell was also known for his eclectic and his rebellious nature, which extended to his fervor for performing. In fact, The New York Times reported that Stockwell's relationship with Hollywood was so rocky he quit the business three times. Stockwell threw in the towel the first time in his teens, then again in his 30s to enjoy the freewheeling bohemia of the American 1960s. He walked away from entertainment for the last time in the '80s, to pursue real estate, before finally striking career gold with "Quantum Leap" from 1989 to 1993.

Speaking with Craig Edwards for and interview with Psychotronic Video in 1995, Stockwell summed up his career at the time: "It's been a long hard road. Some parts of it were pretty bumpy, but the last few years have been pretty smooth. And I can't wait to see where the road leads from here."  

That road eventually led the multi-faceted creative to spend some of his late-life showcasing his own mixed media artwork in a series of exhibits presented under his full name, Robert Dean Stockwell. Of his collage work, Stockwell told LiveTaos in 2014 that his goal was to "[create] a new world" with each piece, and that viewing his work was the only way to truly "understand that."

With Stockwell's passing, the world of stage and screen has lost a true, if often under-appreciated, Hollywood original.