"Dean Stockwell Speaks, Questions and Answers"
transcribed by Nancy Rapaglia
I-CON X Stonybrook, NY, April 20, 1991
STOCKWELL: For me it's a big deal to sit down. I never get to sit down on Quantum Leap [laughter], because I'd go through the chair, naturally.
I'm a little jet lagged, but I'm feeling pretty good, very happy to be here on Long Island. I'm feeling especially well because since we stopped shooting this past season of Quantum Leap, we found out that we were picked up for 22 more [applause], and that makes me feel nice and secure during the off season.
I want to tell you that I saw your friend and mine, Mr. Scott Bakula, yesterday. We were doing some looping - it's called looping; during the off season we have to do that quite frequently when there's something amiss with the sound and the dialogue. We have to redo the dialogue so it's nice and clear. He had just flown in from Dallas, Texas, where, yesterday and the weekend, he was doing his second feature film, the name of which I don't have with me. And I told him I was coming, and he said to send his regards and say hello to all of you. And I'm sure someone will ask me this question, so I'll give the answer before the question: he is definitely a wonderful person to work with, and he's become a true friend, and I can't say enough wonderful things about him.
And I'd like to tell you about our closing episode for this season, which is the cliffhanger, and then we can do some questions and answers, okay? I'm going to tell you this because I just think it's interesting, because you like the show. The last episode finds Sam in an insane asylum in the 1950s, and before I have a chance to give him any information to tell him who he is or anything, he's given electroshock treatment, by kind of a hostile orderly. And the shock treatment completely blasts away his personality, and when I find him, he's not Sam, he's Gloria [laughter].
So through this episode he goes from one personality to another, of characters
he's leaped into on the show. And the idea to get him back is, he has to have
another shock treatment. And you see him in the shock treatment room, and they
have him all strapped down, and they
put the thing and they zap like this, and it's storming out, a lightning storm
happening outside. And just as he gets the shock treatment, he leaps, and then
you see us in a little park. It looks a little like a New England bay, and
there's a cannon and a building.
And I'm standing near the cannon, and he's laying on the grass. And I say, "Sam? Are you okay?"
And he looks at me and says [inaudible, probably], "You must have leaped with me!"
I happen to notice what I'm wearing. I've got a uniform on. And he gets up and waves to me and says, "Come here."
And I go to walk to him--and I bump into the cannon [laughter and applause]. And then we both look towards the camera, and say, "Oh, boy!" [laughter].
The show that's going to be a continuation of that has not been written yet [inaudible], but anyway you heard it here first, directly from the hologram's mouth [applause].
Now should we do some questions and answers?
QUESTION: What was it like to kiss Michelle Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob?
STOCKWELL: Not too shabby [laughter]. This is a beautiful girl, beautiful woman, and I respect her a great deal. She's serious about her work, very conscientious, very professional and a very nice lady. And I really like her. I'm glad I got to kiss her ... uhhhh! [laughter].
QUESTION: Could you do Duke Nukem's voice for me?
STOCKWELL: This is from a show called Captain Planet [and the Planeteers--KFB], and Duke Nukem is one of the villains, and he goes like this. [Dean laughs in Duke's voice] "I'll give those Planeteers a sunbath and a little radiation!" That's it! [applause]
QUESTION: The clothes you wear on the show - do you wear those outside of it too?
STOCKWELL: No, those are just for the show. I dress quite a bit more conservatively.
You see this jacket? It's from a movie I did about six years ago called Beverly
Hills Cop 2. This is conservative. I don't wear that kind of thing. I like
it on the show. The guy that
does that, his name is Jean-Pierre Dorleac. He's quite a good costume designer.
QUESTION: Are you really kind of a ladies' man? [laughter]
STOCKWELL: No, that's part of the character. Mr. Bellisario, Don Bellisario, who created the show, and created the beginnings of the character anyway in the pilot - because you can see that Al was a bit of a lech. Part of Mr. Bellisario's personality is in Al. And he projects it in his shows. He's doing a new show now called Tequila and Boner [oops - it's Tequila and Bonetti - KMF], which will be on in the new season. It's about a cop and a dog, and the dog can sniff dope and catches criminals, and you can hear the dog's thoughts and the dog has a personality. And the personality is like Al [he laughs] so you can see it's like coming from Don Bellisario.
QUESTION: How did you like playing Howard Hughes in Tucker?
STOCKWELL: I enjoyed it very much. A lot of people refer to what we do, that we actors do, as challenging. That particular one was in some small way a challenge, because other people had already played Howard Hughes. Some fine actors, that I respect a great deal, had already done it. So it was challenging in that respect.
QUESTION: How difficult was it for you to come back into entertainment and show business after you had left? And what made you want to go back into show business?
STOCKWELL: Well, the first time I left, I was 16 years old, and I had been making films at MGM for nine years. And I was child star and I didn't have much privacy, and I was working all the time. I couldn't be where I wanted to be; I couldn't play; so I needed to find anonymity, to just disappear. That's why I quit. Then I came back when I was 21.
I found it difficult at first because I really couldn't capitalize on what
I learned as a child, since I was no longer a child. But I answered some ads,
and got some interesting television roles. And then I got to play Compulsion
on Broadway, and that started me doing
quite well in the late 50s and into the 60s.
Other than that, the kind of work wasn't what I wanted. It was 14 years before
getting films like Tucker and Married to the Mob. There was that period of
14 years where, like people say, I couldn't get arrested. And I was always
available and wanting to work at the time,
but it just wasn't the way the dice were falling. I wasn't very wanted. [He fakes a cry.]
QUESTION: Scott Bakula has a gray streak in his hair. [It's white, folks!--KFB] Did they do that for the show?
STOCKWELL: No, it's natural. Don Bellisario said, "The heck with it. Just leave it."
QUESTION: When Sam jumps in, where do people go when they're not there?
STOCKWELL: That's what we refer to on a lot of episodes. It's called the Waiting Room, and it's in the present - future - and usually the people in the Waiting Room think they've been abducted by aliens.
QUESTION: How did you go about getting the role in Blue Velvet?
STOCKWELL: I had done a job, a little movie in Mexico City [inaudible; the film was To Kill a Stranger, directed by Juan Lopez Moctezuma - KFB]. I ran into this fellow carrying a script of Dune.
And I had read the books to Dune and was a big fan, and still am. So I got someone to help me meet this guy David Lynch. I went ahead and asked if I could have a part in Dune. And he said, "Oh, the parts are all taken. Gosh, I'm really glad to meet you and see you, and I'm sorry." So I said, in my mind, "Okay, I tried." A couple of months later, I got a call from my agent that I was offered a part in Dune, because the other actor kept falling [?] out of it. And I was asked to call David. So I called him. And the first thing he said, he apologized and said, "I'm sorry if I looked a little pale and shaken when I met you that day at the restaurant, but I thought you were dead [laughter].
And he had mistaken me for someone else, obviously. So I auditioned for the role, and got the part of Doctor Yueh in Dune. So later on, when - David likes to use people more than once - and when Blue Velvet came along he had told me about it, and he extended to me a role in it.
QUESTION: Are you a big Roy Orbison fan?
STOCKWELL: I'm much more of a Roy Orbison fan now. I was not a fan of his at all when the movie was done.
QUESTION: Other than your role on Quantum Leap, what else are you doing?
STOCKWELL: Well, right now it is our off season on hiatus, and I have my agent
looking for films. Just yesterday I closed a deal where I will be doing another
series. It's an NBC show called Against All Odds, and I will be the host. It's
kind of like a people's story type
QUESTION: First thing I have to say is a message from a mutual friend, Sally Smith.
QUESTION: She said she wishes you well on your first convention.
STOCKWELL: My first convention? [Dean Stockwell was at Star Fest in Denver in March, 1990, as reported in detail in The Imaging Chamber #3 - KFB.]
QUESTION: Second, could you talk a little about your family? [inaudible]
STOCKWELL: I'm a second generation [actor]. My mother was in vaudeville, was a dancer and a singer and comedienne for a few years, at least up until she had her first child, which was my brother Guy,who is also an actor and a teacher. My father was a singer, and he did quite well in musical comedies. He was the voice of Prince Charming in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And that's about it.
QUESTION: I saw you on Bloopers and Practical Jokes. What other types of pranks go on, on the set?
STOCKWELL: Well, we have some jokers on the crew. The camera operator, who is leaving the show, unfortunately, was one of the best jokers. They seem to like to pick on me. One frequently is the tape ball throwers. They use a lot of tape around the cameras, for lights, mostly, though [also] on the floors to mark where the actors stand or the dolly moves. And they take the tape [and] roll it into balls. Quite frequently, they go whistling through the air right up until we roll the film, and you see hundreds of these lying around. It's wicked funny.
QUESTION: Hi. Mercedes Ruehl, from Married to the Mob [inaudible question about Ruehl, and then inaudible beginning of next question by the same person] ... which do you think, of film, theater, and television, you most enjoy?
STOCKWELL: I'm very fond of Mercedes Ruehl. She played my wife in Married to the Mob. She was the one that gunned me down in my dream [laughter]. She's very sweet; I love her. As far as choosing between stage, film, and television, of course, I don't really have that strong a preference. Each is approached differently.
QUESTION: On Quantum Leap they always have Sam, Scott Bakula, sing different songs. Have they ever considered maybe taping it for an album?
STOCKWELL: I have heard somehow about an album. I don't know if there is enough material yet to make a soundtrack, but I'm asked this question all the time. So there is a lot of interest in it.
QUESTION: Like others there, I'm very impressed by the great job you did on Howard Hughes. I was wondering if there were any particular roles that you haven't played yet, that are the kinds of roles you would really like to do.
STOCKWELL: Well, frankly, I've had it in my mind that I'd like to be the host of a television show, and now I just got that right off the bat. As far as a specific particular role, I do like to do anything with comedy. I'm fascinated with comedy, and humorous acting.
QUESTION: We're always hearing references to the Waiting Room. Will there be any episodes where the Waiting Room will take a major plot, in seeing what happens on the other side?
STOCKWELL: Again, that's possible. I think it's possible, and it would be fun to develop at least part of an episode to see what the Waiting Room is like. It might be done.
QUESTION: Is there any episode in the future that you would like to do?
STOCKWELL: The environmental one is the most important to me, because I'm
very concerned with the environment and what's going on, discussing the ozone
and everything. We have a great staff of writers, and they have come up with
some great ideas for shows; and
considering that we've done about 54, 55 hours of Quantum Leap, that's a lot of episodes. And I think that clearly the majority of them have been very interesting. So we have to leave that part of it up to the writers.
QUESTION: When Sam was a rock star...
STOCKWELL: "Glitter Rock."
QUESTION: - Yeah. Was he really playing the music, or was it another band?
STOCKWELL: No, that was what we do because of technical reasons. Whenever it appears that there is live music, whether Sam is playing the piano, singing in a lounge, or if he's playing rock with a band on stage. The music is prerecorded in a recording studio, with Scott and whoever is making the music. It's prerecorded, and then when they shoot the sequence, you'll see the rock band going around pretending to make music.
QUESTION: How does Sam leap? [laughter] I mean the lightning and stuff.
STOCKWELL: Oh, that's done with what we call postproduction. When we're actually shooting the sequence, where he's just kissed the girl or whatever and he leaps, he doesn't even know when he'll leap. The director and editors will pick a moment and will say, "When he gets here, we'll freeze him." And they'll freeze the frame and quantum leap; with electronic hardware, they're able to put him in a different place.
QUESTION: How many wives does Al have? [laughter]
STOCKWELL: I think we're at five. I prefer six, actually I think seven, because it's my lucky number. But the only one that really mattered was the first.
QUESTION: In the episode where Sam was a black man, he had to save an old lady from getting hit by a train. And you were yelling at her and she heard you. How do you explain how that happened?
STOCKWELL: We go by the Quantum Leap rules of time travel according to Don Bellisario. He created the show, so he makes the rules; also he can change the rules. He just felt that this was a dramatic value in having the woman at that moment not only going to get hit by the train, but have it going by the cemetery where her husband was buried. When she hears me, she thinks she's hearing him. They just felt it was a dramatic moment. And we bend the rules a little.
QUESTION: On Quantum Leap and Kim, did you smoke the same cigars?
STOCKWELL: Uh, no. They were a little different. I was just a kid. I did a film when I was about 12 with Errol Flynn called Kim, and in the script, like in the book Kim, by Rudyard Kipling, a famous author, Kim is an English boy who goes around making everyone think he's a native Indian boy. And he works for spies and this and that. He did smoke cigars, and in the script I did too. I puffed on one or two of them, but they were a different kind of cigars. I wouldn't smoke them when I was that young. Too strong.
QUESTION: Dean, I want to say thank you for your hard work, and I know you're very much into the ozone. My question to you is, what do you do outside of Quantum Leap? What kind of work do you do concerning the environment? And I'd like to say that I appreciate your work on Quantum Leap. The character, whether he's [inaudible] or not I think he's great [applause]. He adds a lot of color to the show.
What was your favorite episode that you've done for Quantum Leap, and what
was the hardest thing you had to do?
STOCKWELL: I'm asked and Scott is asked quite frequently what our favorite episode is, and we always have trouble because there are so many of them. I have to say, I think, always I will feel that the pilot was my favorite episode, because that's when there was still an impressionistic side to it. And those were some of my favorite leaps, in the pilot. Since then, I would say any of the lightest and funniest ones are my favorites.
As far as the environmental work is concerned, I was not able to do a great deal of environmental work a few years back, because no one cared what I had to say. But the minute you have some success and some big movies, get an Academy Award nomination, get a hit series, all of a sudden everyone wants to hear what you have to say. So what I'm able to do now is take advantage of whatever celebrity I've built, and distribute the information to whoever will listen to me. I do talk shows, I do television and radio commercials, interviews...
I attended the convention at the Eco-Expo Convention Center that just opened. I cut the ribbon. I did a press conference there exhibiting one of the recycle machines that recycles CFCs, which is a very important one. We wanted to let a lot of people know that these machines exist, and if you ever need work on your refrigerators, or air conditioners, ask if they have one of these machines.
QUESTION: One more question. Whose idea was it to do stories like Stephen King, "Piggy Sooey," etc., etc.?
STOCKWELL: That's Don Bellisario. He tries to get what we call "kisses with history." We try to get them every once in a while. We really like them.
QUESTION: I was wondering why you let the staff of I-Con give you your coffee in a Styrofoam cup.
STOCKWELL: You're very justified in calling me on that. The little girl here went to the trouble of getting it for me, and I didn't want to send her back. Also with Styrofoam is that they've gotten away from making it with CFCs. I still don't like it. It doesn't biodegrade. There's a new debate among environmentalists as well as others that maybe, believe it or not, it's biodegradable. It's turning out that a lot of the biodegradable things, once they degrade, are giving off undesirable things. Even something like this can have dioxides in it.
QUESTION: I have a question about acting technique. Did you ever meet James Dean, Montgomery Clift, or Brando? Do you have any stories, and were you influenced by any of those actors?
STOCKWELL: I never met James Dean. I've met and knew Montgomery Clift and Brando. I can't say that I was influenced by them. When I see other actors work, and I like it, I'll pick it out and see if I can make it work for me.
QUESTION: [inaudible, possibly about identifying with his character, or about the cliffhanger, or both]
STOCKWELL: It comes as a very unusual feeling, one of which is during the little piece I told you about with the cannon, where I discover that I leaped, and that all of a sudden Sam is a hologram. I had very strange and amusing feelings running through me in the film box, one of which was watching Scott do the blue screen plate where he walks through the cannon. I felt, I don't mean this in a serious way but in a humorous way, I felt a little pang of jealousy that he was getting to be the hologram. And I think he probably felt the same way, because I was getting to leap instead of him. So it's going to be a very novel experience for me to do this episode, because it's more like his first leap in the pilot than anything else, because it'll be the first time that I've ever been solid, and people will be able to see me as someone else, and the whole thing. So it's going to be very interesting.
QUESTION: On Quantum Leap, usually Sam leaps into the 50s, 60s, 70s, and always in America. Are there any plans for him to leap out of the country, or go further back than the 50s?
STOCKWELL: There are no plans for Sam to leap back further than the date of his birth. There is a concept, and that's for him to leap into his own lifetime.
Now, this one we were just talking about, I'm older than he is, so we leapt to the 40s. I can go back to 1946 because of my age, and now I'm leaping. The interesting thing then is, I still have the handlink to Ziggy, and it still has a battery of its own, but it's the 40s and there's nothing for it to communicate with because the computer doesn't exist [laughter]. So it doesn't do us any good at all.
What was the other part of the question?
QUESTION: Is he going to leap out of the country?
STOCKWELL: I don't know. We were going to have an episode, that was mentioned in a question, when he leapt home, when he was himself at 16 at his home in Indiana. That was the opening for last season, and we were planning during the off season to shoot in the Midwest, to go back to the Midwest and shoot it there. But then that was changed due to budgets and monetary reasons. To actually depict a [different] country comes down to dollars, so if we can do shows just as good without going to France, we'll do them.
QUESTION: Can they hide your shadow in the show? It's the only problem in a lot of the episodes.
STOCKWELL: It's a big problem. We work very hard to eliminate it as much as we can. There are times you just can't eliminate the shadow without taking another hour or so.
QUESTION: Can you tell an anecdote or two of the film you starred [in] with Jack Nicholson called Psych-Out?
STOCKWELL: Well, I don't know if it's an anecdote, but I hated the role that I had in that movie. I accepted it because there was no other job for me, and I had to pay my rent. Most of you can appreciate that. And I just did it because I had to.
QUESTION: We saw the episode with the black man before we saw Driving Miss Daisy. When we saw Driving Miss Daisy, we thought, "Yeah, that was okay," but we like your show, the script, better. We thought it was better [applause].
STOCKWELL: They were totally different stories.
QUESTION: Oh yeah, it was quite different, but I liked it better, much better.
QUESTION: [unknown, presumably about the 14 years when Stockwell had trouble finding work.]
STOCKWELL: During those years I spent a lot of time doing dinner theater around the country to pay the bills.
QUESTION: You're always talking about saving the ozone. Why are you smoking?
STOCKWELL: This has nothing to do with ozone. It does not hurt the ozone layer. I'll explain what does in a second.
QUESTION: Yeah, I was wondering if there were any environmental feelings that you would like to share with us.
STOCKWELL: Well, I would, but we're out of time. I want that young gentleman to realize what's hurting the ozone layer are molecules called chlorofluorocarbons. Whatever contains chlorofluorocarbons, if it's released, it will ultimately damage the ozone layer. Whenever these molecules reach that altitude, and the ultraviolet rays from the sun break down these molecules, releasing chlorine, that chlorine combined with ozone forms the holes. That's what happens.
Okay! I've got to go sign some autographs [applause]. Thank you very much! [more applause.