Lea Thompson

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Lea Thompson
Lea Thompson by Gregg Bond (2008).jpg
At the May 2008 Collectormania 13
Convention in Milton Keynes, UK
Born Lea Kathleen Thompson
(1961-05-31) May 31, 1961 (age 53)
Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.
Years active 1982–present
Spouse(s) Howard Deutch (m. 1989)
Children Zoey and Madeline Deutch

Lea Kathleen Thompson[1] (born May 31, 1961) is an American actress, television director and television producer. She is known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy and as the title character in the 1990s NBC sitcom Caroline in the City. Other films she is known for include All the Right Moves, The Beverly Hillbillies, Howard the Duck, Jaws 3-D, Red Dawn, and Some Kind of Wonderful. Since 2011 she has co-starred as Kathryn Kennish in the ABC Family series Switched at Birth.

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born in Rochester, Minnesota, the daughter of Barbara Anne (née Barry), a singer and musician, and Clifford Elwin "Cliff" Thompson. She studied ballet as a girl and practiced three to four hours every day. She was dancing professionally by the age of 14.[2] She won scholarships to several ballet schools, including the American Ballet Theatre, the San Francisco Ballet, and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Thompson danced in more than 45 ballets with the American Ballet Theatre. She also danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Minnesota Dance Theatre and the Ballet Repertory. Her brother Andrew also took ballet classes and went on to become a professional.

Thompson was told by ballet legend and then ABT artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov that she was "a beautiful dancer, but too stocky." Due to this (as well as some small nagging past injuries), she decided to give up dancing in favor of an acting career. She moved to New York at age 20 and performed in a number of Burger King advertisements in the 1980s along with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Elisabeth Shue, her eventual co-star in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III.[2][3]


Thompson's first significant film roles came in 1983, with Jaws 3-D and All the Right Moves (the latter opposite Tom Cruise). These were followed by Red Dawn (1984) and The Wild Life (1984). In a 2008 interview, she explained that she learned tactics and how to shoot and field strip Soviet weapons for the film Red Dawn.

Thompson's most famous role was that of Lorraine Baines McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, the first film released in 1985. Thompson's character is the mother of Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, whom Marty meets at an adolescent age after he travels back in time: he has to avoid having Lorraine fall in love with him instead of with his future father George (Crispin Glover), which leads to some awkward scenes when Lorraine is clearly attracted to him.

In 1986, Thompson starred in SpaceCamp and Howard the Duck. For the latter film, she sang several songs on the soundtrack, in character, as musician Beverly Switzler, who was the lead vocalist for a band called Cherry Bomb. The recordings appeared on both the soundtrack album and on singles. Rounding out film appearances in the late 1980s, Thompson starred in Some Kind of Wonderful, Casual Sex?, Going Undercover and The Wizard of Loneliness. She also had a prominent role in the 1989 TV film Nightbreaker, for which she was nominated for a CableACE Award. In the early 1990s, Thompson starred as the mother of the titular character in Dennis the Menace (1993), the villainess in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and a snooty ballet instructor in The Little Rascals (1994). She also appeared in several TV film throughout the 1990s, including The Substitute Wife (1994) and The Right To Remain Silent (1996).

Thompson found moderate critical and popular success as the star of the NBC sitcom Caroline in the City, from 1995 to 1999. In 1996, Thompson received a People's Choice Award for "Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Series".[4]

After a break from acting, Thompson went on to star in several Broadway plays. She later appeared in a TV series called For the People, which only lasted one season. She then starred in a TV film, Stealing Christmas (2003), starring Tony Danza and Betty White. Thompson also appeared in several episodes of the dramedy series Ed and in a guest role for one episode in 2004 on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; she played a woman whose embryos were stolen.

In 2005, Thompson began a series of made-for-TV films for the Hallmark Channel, in which she plays Jane Doe, an ex-secret agent turned housewife, who helps the government solve mysteries. Thompson directed two films from the Jane Doe series – Jane Doe: The Harder They Fall and Jane Doe: Eye of the Beholder.

Thompson was a featured singer on Celebrity Duets and the second contestant eliminated in 2006. In April 2007, she starred in another TV film, A Life Interrupted, which premiered on Lifetime Television.

Thompson guest-starred on the show Head Case in January 2008. She appeared in the TV film Final Approach, which debuted in the U.S. on May 24, 2008.[5] Her recent film credits include Exit Speed and Spy School. She recently starred in the television movie The Christmas Clause, which received good reviews and ratings. She stars in the new films Splinterheads and Prettyface, and recently filmed the movie Adventures of a Teenage Dragon Slayer.

Thompson stars in Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake, a casual adventure game released in November 2012 by Big Fish Games.[6] Thompson's daughter Madeline Deutch also features as a paranormal television series host.

Since 2011, Thompson has starred in the ABC Family series Switched at Birth, about a family realizing their 16-year-old daughter is not biologically theirs and was switched with another baby at the hospital.

On September 4, 2014, Thompson was announced as one of the celebrities who will compete on the 19th season of Dancing with the Stars. She is paired with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Thompson has been married to film director Howard Deutch since 1989. They first met on the set of the 1987 film Some Kind of Wonderful.[3]

Thompson and Deutch have two daughters, Madeline and Zoey, with whom she sang on stage in the Bye Bye Birdie production for the 16th annual Alzheimer's Association "A Night at Sardi's" in March 2008.[8] Both daughters are actresses. Thompson has stated that her career break to raise her daughters helped with her subsequent portrayal of soccer mom Cathy Davis in the Jane Doe TV movie series.



Year Title Role Notes
1982 MysteryDisc: Murder, Anyone? Cecily 'Sissy' Loper Video
1983 Jaws 3-D Kelly Ann Bukowski
1983 All the Right Moves Lisa Lietzke
1984 Red Dawn Erica Mason
1984 Wild Life, TheThe Wild Life Anita
1985 Back to the Future Lorraine Baines McFly
1986 SpaceCamp Kathryn Fairly
1986 Howard the Duck Beverly Switzler
1987 Some Kind of Wonderful Amanda Jones
1988 Going Undercover Marigold de la Hunt
1988 Casual Sex? Stacy
1988 Wizard of Loneliness, TheThe Wizard of Loneliness Sybil
1989 Back to the Future Part II Lorraine McFly
1990 Back to the Future Part III Maggie McFly / Lorraine McFly
1992 Article 99 Dr. Robin Van Dorn
1993 Dennis the Menace Mrs. Alice Mitchell
1993 Beverly Hillbillies, TheThe Beverly Hillbillies Laura Jackson
1994 Little Rascals, TheThe Little Rascals Ms. Roberts
1998 Unknown Cyclist, TheThe Unknown Cyclist Melissa Cavatelli
2002 Fish Don't Blink Clara
2003 Haunted Lighthouse Peg Van Legge Short film
2005 Come Away Home Carol
2006 10 Tricks Grace
2007 California Dreaming Ginger Gainor
2007 Jane Doe: How to Fire Your Boss Cathy Davis Video
2008 Spy School Claire Miller
2008 Senior Skip Day Cathleen Harris Video
2008 Exit Speed Maudie McMinn
2009 Fatal Secrets Rebecca
2009 Check, TheThe Check Darla Short film
2009 Rock Slyde Master Bartologist
2009 Splinterheads Susan Frost
2010 Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer Laura
2011 Thin Ice Jo Ann Prohaska
2011 Mayor Cupcake Mary Maroni
2011 J. Edgar Lela Rogers
2012 The Trouble with the Truth Emily
2014 Ping Pong Summer Mrs. Miracle June 6 release[9]
2014 Left Behind Irene Steele In post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1989 Nightbreaker Sally Matthews
1989 Tales from the Crypt Sylvia Vane Episode: "Only Sin Deep"
1990 Montana Peg Guthrie
1993 Stolen Babies Annie Beales
1994 Substitute Wife, TheThe Substitute Wife Amy Hightower
1995 Unspoken Truth, TheThe Unspoken Truth Brianne Hawkins
1995 Friends Caroline Duffy (uncredited) Episode: "The One with the Baby on the Bus"
Caroline in the City Caroline Duffy 97 episodes
1996 Right to Remain Silent, TheThe Right to Remain Silent Christine Paley
1998 Will of their Own, AA Will of their Own Amanda Steward Miniseries (part 1)
For the People Chief Dep. Dist. Atty. Camille Paris 18 episodes
2003 Stealing Christmas Sarah Gibson
2004 Ed Liz Stevens 3 episodes
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Michelle Osborne Episode: "Birthright"
2005 Jane Doe: Vanishing Act Cathy Davis
2005 Jane Doe: Now You See It, Now You Don't Cathy Davis
2005 Jane Doe: Til Death Do Us Part Cathy Davis
2005 Jane Doe: The Wrong Face Cathy Davis
2006 Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well Cathy Davis
2006 Jane Doe: The Harder They Fall Cathy Davis
2007 Jane Doe: Ties That Bind Cathy Davis / Jane Doe
2007 Life Interrupted, AA Life Interrupted Debbie Smith
2007 Final Approach Alicia Bender
2008 Jane Doe: Eye of the Beholder Cathy Davis / Jane Doe
2008 Christmas Clause, TheThe Christmas Clause Sophie
2010 Uncle Nigel Abby Wells
2010 Greek April Episode: "Camp Buy Me Love"
2011 Robot Chicken Lorraine Baines (voice) Episode: "Major League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"
2011 Cabin, TheThe Cabin Lily MacDougall
2011 Game of Your Life Abbie
Switched at Birth Kathryn Kennish Main role
Also director on episode "Prudence, Avarice, Lust, Justice, Anger"
2012 Love at the Christmas Table Elissa Beth Dixon
2013 Call Me Crazy: A Five Film Julia A Lifetime original movie
2013 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Jennifer Rhodes Episode: "Under a Cloud"
2014 A to Z Herself Episode: ""A" is for Acquaintances"
2014 Dancing with the Stars Contestant on season 19

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominated work Award Category Result
1985 Back to the Future Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
1987 Some Kind of Wonderful Young Artist Awards Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Won
1990 Back to the Future Part II Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actress Won
1995 Caroline in the City People's Choice Awards Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Series Won
1996 Satellite Awards Best Actress in a TV Series – Musical or Comedy Nominated
1997 OFTA Awards Best Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
2014 The Trouble with the Truth American Movie Awards Best Actress Won


  1. ^ According to the Minnesota Birth Index, 1935–2002, at http://www.ancestry.com/
  2. ^ a b Catsoulis, Jeannette. "Movies: AboutLea Thompson". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Harris, Will (2012-02-21). "Random Roles: Lea Thompson". avclub.com. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Lea Thompson, Hollywood.com
  5. ^ Lea Thompson Dishes on Hallmark's Final Approach – Celebrity and Entertainment News, TVGuide.com
  6. ^ Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake Announced at http://www.bigfishgames.com/blog/mystery-case-files-shadow-lake-announced/
  7. ^ http://hollywoodlife.com/2014/09/04/dancing-with-the-stars-season-19-cast-dwts-celebrities/
  8. ^ Stars break out in song to honor of David E. Kelley's Alzheimer's portrayal – By Victoria Namkung, Special for USA TODAY (Posted 3/6/2008)- USATODAY.com
  9. ^ http://pingpongsummer.com/

Further reading[edit]

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