Ballet dancer turned actress Lea Thompson gained notice for her portrayal of
Caroline Duffy in the NBC series Caroline in the City (1995), for which she was
handed a People's Choice Award for Best Actress in 1996. She also received
recognition as Sally Matthews in her first TV movie, Night Breaker, in 1989. Her
bright performance brought her an Ace Award nomination. Thompson's
interpretation as insensitive Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) won
the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in 1987. In 1985, Thompson's first
big break came when she played Lorraine Baines McFly in the box office hit Back
to the Future. Recently, Lea has been seen in the reoccurring role of Cathy
Davis in Jane Doe (2005).
On stage, Lea had such theatre works as Bus Stop at the Pasadena Playhouse, The
Illusion with the Los Angeles Theater Company, Long Time Coming at the
Powerhouse Theatre, John Drew Theatre's production of Charlie Bacon's Family and
The Trip Down Back at the Actor's Repertory Theatre. She also starred as Sally
Bowles in Cabaret and did The Vagina Monologues in L.A. Off screen, 5' 4" inch
tall Thompson reportedly once lived with her then-fiancÚ, actor Dennis Quaid
from 1983 until 1987. She left him after meeting her current husband, director
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of Cliff Thompson and Barbara (bar singer), Lea Katherine Thompson
was born on May 31, 1961, in Rochester, Minnesota. The youngest of five
children, Lea was raised in poverty. The children shared a room at the Starlight
motel before the family moved to Minneapolis. At the age of six, Lea's parents
divorced and Lea grew up under the guidance of her alcohol-addicted mother. When
Lea was seven, her mother remarried musician Rob Hanson.
Nine-year-old Lea dreamed of becoming a ballerina and tried to fulfill that
dream by practicing ballet three or four hours a day and performing on stage. At
the age of fourteen, Lea attended the School of American Ballet and The San
Francisco Ballet, in which she had won a scholarship. After graduating from
Marshall-University High School in Minneapolis, Lea wanted to dance
professionally. At the age of nineteen however, Lea made up her mind to pursue a
career in acting after ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov told her that she was too
small to become a ballerina.
Lea, who celebrated her mid-life crisis by having her belly button pierced and
getting a tattoo, married director Howard Deutch in 1989. She is the mother of
two daughters: Madeline Deutch (born March 1991) and Zoey Deutch (born December
1994). The family resides in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California.
Back to the Future
Starting her career as a ballerina, young Lea received her first role as a mouse
in The Nutcracker and then danced in numerous ballets on stages like The
Minnesota Dance Theatre, with The Pennsylvania Ballet Company, and The Ballet
Repertory. After she moved to New York to pursue acting, Lea Thompson was first
noticed on screen when she appeared in Burger King and Twix commercials.
Afterward, Thompson was in the computer game Murder, Anyone (1982) before
playing pretty cheerleader Kelly Ann Bukowski in her debut film Jaws 3-D (1983),
in which she also met actor Dennis Quaid (became her fiancÚ and acting teacher).
Thompson was next cast as Tom Cruise's girl friend, Lisa Litski, in All the
Right Moves (1983). In 1984, she played the character of a young guerilla
fighter helping to keep away Russian invaders from the United States in Red Dawn
(also starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen) and also appeared in The Wild
Thompson eventually received her big break when she played Michael J. Fox's
mother, Lorraine Baines McFly, in Back to the Future (1985). The film was the
biggest hit of the year and Thompson became a wanted actress. Commenting about
her role in Back to the Future, she said, "What makes the Back to the Future
films so wonderful for me as an actress, and I think for audiences as well, is
that the filmmakers didn't try to cast someone who just looked like us in the
older versions of our characters. It's essential to the story that the audience
knows that it's the same actor playing the role, and hopefully they will accept
us in our older characterizations. When I read the script to the first film, I
thought the story was terrific and very interesting. When they told me I would
be playing both young and old Lorraine, I knew it would be a tremendous
challenge, so of course I wanted it immediately."
Shortly after, Lea could be seen in Space Camp (1986) and George Lucas' Howard
the Duck (1986). The latter film drew criticism but she bounced back with her
character Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). The role in Howard
Deutch's movie garnered her the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in
In 1988, Thompson had three movie projects: comedy Casual Sex, Yellow Pages and
The Wizard of Loneliness. The following year she was seen in her first TV movie,
Night Breaker (1989), for which her spectacular performance brought an Ace Award
nomination. She ended the decade by reprising the role of Lorraine
Baines/McFly/Tannen in Back to the Future Part II.
After Lea Thompson portrayed Peg Guthrie in Montana (1990,TV), she was filming
Back to the Future Part III (1990) and playing Dr. Robin Van Dorn in Article 99
(1992). She then took a break with the arrival of her first baby.
In 1993, Thompson returned to TV by playing the role of Annie Beales in Stolen
Babies. She was also seen in such big screen projects as Dennis the Menace
(1993) and The Beverly Hillbillies (1993). She then was cast as Amy Hightower in
The Substitute Wife (1994, TV) and as ballet teacher Ms. Roberts in The Little
Rascals (1994) before staying home to have her second baby.
When Thompson again returned to acting, she was offered the role of Caroline
Duffy in the new NBC sitcom Caroline in the City (1995). Her bright performance
was well received and she was awarded a People's Choice Award for Best Actress
in the subsequent year. Sadly, the series ended after four seasons due to low
ratings. Thompson was then seen in The Unspoken Truth (1995,TV), A Will of Their
Own (1998, TV) and starred as Melissa Cavatelli in The Unknown Cyclist (1998).
Entering the new millennium, Lea Thompson also did some stage work and appeared
on Broadway. Thompson's theater work included Bus Stop at the Pasadena Playhouse
and The Illusion. She also appeared in the Powerhouse Theatre's production of
Long Time Coming, Charlie Bacon's Family at the John Drew Theatre in East
Hampton and The Trip Down Back at the Actor's Repertory Theatre. Lea also
starred as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and did The Vagina Monologues in L.A in 2001.
In 2002, Thompson came back to the big screen and television in Electric (2002),
Fish Don't Blink (2002), For the People (2002, TV), Haunted Lighthouse (2003)
and Stealing Christmas (2003, TV). Recently, Thompson had a reoccurring role as
Cathy Davis in Jane Doe's Vanishing Act (2005), Now You See It, Now You Don't
(2005), Till Death Do Us Part (2005), The Wrong Face (2005) and The Harder They
- People's Choice: Favorite Female in a New Series,
Caroline in the City, 1996
- The Young Artist: Best Young Actress, Some Kind of