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Actor Dean Stockwell dies aged 85

Dean Stockwell, the US actor known for playing Al in the sci-fi series Quantum Leap, has died aged 85.

During a 70-year career, Stockwell won a Golden Globe award for the his best-known role and was also nominated for an Oscar for Married to the Mob.

Aside from Quantum Leap, he also appeared in Air Force One, as well as the David Lynch films Blue Velvet and Dune.

His representatives told the BBC he died peacefully at home on Sunday.

‘Streetwise and cocky’

Quantum Leap originally aired on NBC in the US for five seasons, from 1989 to 1993, and soon became popular with UK audiences too.

It starred Scott Bakula as Dr Sam Beckett, a physicist who involuntarily leaps through space time using other people’s bodies as vessels in order to correct historical mistakes.

Stockwell co-starred as Admiral Al Calavicci, Dr Beckett’s cigar-smoking and womanising best friend who appears to him in hologram form to offer guidance as the experiments unfold.

“I have a particular fondness for Admiral Al Calavicci,” Stockwell said in a 1994 interview. “I guess people say that actors take a little bit of the part away with them, but if I really was as streetwise and cocky as Al, I’d probably have been a bigger star.”

He won a Golden Globe award for the role in 1990 – for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a TV series – and later received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Last year, NBC announced it was considering a reboot of the show for its streaming service.

Born into a family of entertainers in Los Angeles, Stockwell started his career as a child actor and made his first film appearance in 1945’s Valley of Decision, before featuring alongside Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh.

He then appeared in Broadway stage productions such as Compulsion, later reprising his role in the screen adaptation of the same name.

‘Drugs and love-ins’

In the mid-1960s though, Stockwell dropped out of showbusiness to join the Topanga Canyon hippie community, where members included the musician Neil Young.

“I did some drugs and went to some love-ins,” Stockwell later said of the experience. “The experience of those days provided me with a huge, panoramic view of my existence that I didn’t have before. I have no regrets.”

He returned to Hollywood with roles in Paris, Texas, Dune and To Live and Die in L.A, before putting in a memorable cameo as the crooner Ben in the neo-noir mystery thriller Blue Velvet, where he performed a rendition of Roy Orbison’s Dreams for Dennis Hopper and co.

In 1988, he was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance as Mafia boss Tony “the Tiger” Russo in the comedy Married to the Mob. Stockwell called it “the favourite part I’ve ever had in a film”.

He said: “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.”

He also appeared in Francis Ford Coppella’s The Rainmaker, as well as Robert Altman’s The Player, and went on to have recurring TV roles in the Battlestar Galactica series and The Tony Danza Show.

Stockwell was twice married – once to the actress Millie Perkins – and had two children.

A statement from his publicity team read: “Dean spent a lifetime yo-yoing back and forth between fame and anonymity.

Because of that, when he had a job, he was grateful. He never took the business for granted. He was a rebel, wildly talented and always a breath of fresh air. He loved to act, to laugh, smoke cigars and play golf.”

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