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Dean Stockwell, who played 'Al' in Quantum Leap, dies ages 85

Actor Dean Stockwell poses in Feb 1989 at an unknown location. Stockwell died on Nov 7 2021.
Actor Dean Stockwell poses in Feb 1989 at an unknown location. Stockwell died on Nov 7 2021. Copyright ALAN GRETH/AP
Copyright ALAN GRETH/AP
By Jez Fielder
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A child actor on Broadway, Stockwell's career spanned seven decades before he retired from acting in 2015. But his lasting legacy for many will be his portrayal of the project observer. Al, in Quantum Leap, for which he won a Golden Globe in 1990.

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Dean Stockwell, the California-born actor who achieved true recognition as Rear Admiral Albert 'Al' Calavicci in Quantum Leap, has died aged 85. 

The announcement came on Tuesday morning after a spokesperson for the family confirmed the sad news to the Entertainment news portal Deadline.com. 

According to the representative, Stockwell died peacefully at home of natural causes in the early morning of November 7.

A child actor on Broadway, Stockwell's career spanned seven decades before he retired from acting in 2015. But his lasting legacy for many will be his portrayal of the project observer. Al, in Quantum Leap, for which he won a Golden Globe in 1990.  

DOUGLAS PIZAC/AP
Actor Dean Stockwell poses with his award at the 47th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles, Ca. on Jan. 20, 1990DOUGLAS PIZAC/AP

He also received four Emmy nominations for this extraordinary role where he appeared opposite Scott Bakula as a chilled-out, cigar-chomping hologram.

In the mid-to-late 1980s Stockwell was a ubiquitous face on the Hollywood circuit. David Lynch's Blue Velvet, Gardens of Stone (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), Beverly Hills Cop II, and The Blue Iguana to name only a handful. And in 1988, he received an Oscar nomination in the category Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Mafia boss Tony "the Tiger" Russo in Married to the Mob.

What was Quantum leap about?

Quantum Leap was a time-travel drama where the Einstein-loving Dr Sam Beckett (Bakula) devised a way to time travel within one's own lifetime. It transpires that, due to funding being removed by the government, Beckett decided to go it alone and expedite proceedings to test the project, sending him into the past. Stockwell's Al is the project observer and is visible and audible only to Beckett. He outlines how an event or action that had a particular cause and effect in that past needs to be changed for the good of mankind. Once that task is complete, Beckett theoretically can 'leap' back to the present. But that's not what happens. Instead, he is catapulted to another time and place, to right another wrong. Al appears each time to explain -- once again -- that Sam is not home and what his new incarnation needs to achieve, to which Sam, upon comprehending the magnitude of his task, responds with the simple phrase, 'Oh Boy'.

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