Legendary actor Dean Stockwell died from natural causes at the age of 85 on November 7, 2021. The Oscar-nominated star was known for his standout roles in the sci-fi series Quantum Leap and Battlestar Galactica, but he seemed most proud of his role as a dad to his two kids, daughter Sophia and son Austin.
Dean got his start in show business at just 7 years old when he appeared in Innocent Voyage on Broadway. It was his role in the 1945 film Anchors Aweigh that led him to several more opportunities to appear in blockbuster MGM films. He even scored a contract from the studio as a young adult. In a 2012 interview, Dean explained how difficult it was to become a child actor.
”It was six-days-a-week work, and I’d have to work at least eight hours a day and I’d have to fit three hours of schooling in somewhere through the day, in minimum 15-minute segments,” he shared. “So, if the assistant director said, ‘Go to school’ after we’d finish a shot, I’d go in there and I’d have to stay in there 15 minutes, and they’d be waiting at the door for me to come out and block the next shot. So, it meant zero education.”
After a brief acting hiatus, Dean returned to the entertainment scene with small roles on television shows before heading back to Broadway in 1957’s Compulsion. He left show business once more in the 1960s. The Stars in My Crown actor decided to return to acting again in the 1968 film Psych-Out alongside Jack Nicholson. He was married to actress Millie Perkins from 1960 to 1962. Dean married his second wife, Joy Marchenko, in 1981. The pair welcomed their son Austin on November 5, 1983. They welcomed Sophia on August 5, 1985. The pair reportedly divorced in 2004.
In the early 80s, Dean’s career was booming. His roles in Paris, Texas, and Dune led to his Hollywood resurgence. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Married to the Mob in 1988. In 1989, Dean appeared in Quantum Leap, a role that lasted for five seasons. Later in life, he pursued art and exhibited his work. In 2015, Dean suffered a stroke and took a step back from acting.
Meet the late actor’s two children with his ex-wife Joy.
Austin Stockwell is the eldest son of Dean and Joy. Both he and his sister stayed out of the spotlight through their early years. Dean did bring Austin to a 1985 interview in New York when he was just 11 months old. As he fed Austin a mashed banana, Dean explained that he was letting Joy sleep. He offered a touching reason as to why he decided to return to acting while balancing fatherhood.
“I plan to solidify my acting career – so I can provide some security for my little baby boy, Austin, and for his mommy – and for his little brother and sister who will, we expect, come along before too long. They haven’t been conceived yet,” Dean said.
Austin’s godfather is Wim Wenders, the director of Paris, Texas. Even though Austin grew up at the height of his father’s career, Dean expressed hesitancy about Austin becoming an actor at a young age.
“A lot of people ask that, and it’s a very natural question,” he shared. “The way I’ve been trying to answer it is to use the old saw about kids wanting to be firemen. Of course, you don’t put them on a fire truck and send them off to fight a fire. There’s no reason in the United States – in the western world – for a child to work. He’s going to have plenty of work to do, later in life. I’d just as soon that he enjoy his childhood – and play!”
Sophia Stockwell also has kept a rather private life despite her father taking on pivotal acting roles when she was a child. A few years after she was born, Dean shared with the Los Angeles Times that he always took roles with his family in mind. He accepted the role in Quantum Leap despite the stigma that actors can sometimes get stuck on television shows.
“I think it’s obviously not a concern of mine because I chose with my own free will to do a TV series,” he said at the time. “And I chose to do one right at a time when I was enjoying my greatest success in films. I’m a father to my children, and that’s my greatest responsibility in life. I mean, if I can work in Los Angeles and be able to see them all the time, isn’t it to my advantage?”
In 1988, Sophia and Austin did step out onto the red carpet with their parents at the Natural Museum of Los Angeles County in California. They celebrated the premiere of the animated children’s film, The Land Before Time. Sophia and Austin looked nearly identical to their parents and were all smiles. Other than that, the family did not make many public appearances together.