Moving easily between dramatic and comedic roles, actress Lea Thompson has established a career that encompasses film, television, theatre, and interactive computer games. She is perhaps best known for her role in Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis' BACK TO THE FUTURE I, II, and III (Kid's Choice Award winner) and as the title character in the syndicated series, CAROLINE IN THE CITY, for which she won TV Guide and People's Choice Awards.
A native of Minnesota, Thompson began her career as a professional ballet dancer and performed in more than 45 ballets in Minneapolis, Philadelphia and New York. Her first taste of professional theatre was with the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, in Madeline and the Gypsies, and The Little Mermaid. After apprenticing with the Pennsylvania Ballet, Lea moved to New York at the age 20 to pursue an acting career. She was first featured in a supporting role in the motion picture JAWS 3-D with Dennis Quaid, followed by a starring role opposite Tom Cruise in ALL THE RIGHT MOVES.
Her film career took off after that with the BTTF films, RED DAWN, and the now infamous HOWARD THE DUCK. She met her future husband when he directed her in the John Hughes' film, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL. Some of her other favorite roles were in ARTICLE 99, CASUAL SEX?, DENNIS THE MENACE, THE WIZARD OF LONELINESS, SPACE CAMP, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE LITTLE RASCALS, THE UNKNOWN CYCLIST, and FISH DON'T BLINK. Other film credits include COME AWAY HOME; THE WILD LIFE, CALIFORNIA DREAMING; SPLINTERHEADS; and EXIT SPEED. She produced and starred in MAYOR CUPCAKE, which featured her two daughters as well. Lea played Ginger Rogers' mother in Clint Eastwood's J. EDGAR, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Other recent films include THIN ICE starring Greg Kinnear, the critically acclaimed THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH with John Shea, PING PONG SUMMER with Susan Sarandon, and the most recently shot, LEFT BEHIND playing Nicolas Cage's wife.
Thompson's television credits include the Showtime original movie, THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT; NBC made-for television movies, THE UNSPOKEN TRUTH, THE SUBSTITUTE WIFE, GAME OF YOUR LIFE, and the miniseries A WILL OF THEIR OWN with Thomas Gibson; TNT's original movies, MONTANA and NIGHTBREAKER with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, for which she received a CableACE nomination; an episode of HBO's TALES FROM THE CRYPT; USA's STEALING CHRISTMAS with Tony Danza. For Lifetime, Thompson starred in STOLEN BABIES with Mary Tyler Moore, The Debbie Smith Story: A LIFE INTERRUPTED, LOVE AT THE CHRISTMAS TABLE, and the recent sequel to the award winning Lifetime anthology FIVE, titled CALL ME CRAZY: A FIVE FILM. Lea was also featured in the Lifetime series of INTIMATE PORTRAITS. Her NBC series CAROLINE IN THE CITY was must-see TV for four years (and then in syndication ever since), followed by the Lifetime series, FOR THE PEOPLE. Lea starred in nine films for the Hallmark Channel Mystery Film series, JANE DOE, and directed two of the films. Also for Hallmark, Lea starred in the mini-series with Dean Cain, FINAL APPROACH, and THE CABIN which filmed in Ireland and premiered on the Hallmark Movie Channel. For ION, Lea starred in THE CHRISTMAS CLAUSE. Notable television guest spots include FRIENDS, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, ED, LAW AND ORDER: SVU, GREEK, and CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION.
Lea can currently be seen in the third season of the ABC Family hit series, SWITCHED AT BIRTH, and has been directing several episodes as well. She just wrapped MY MOTHER'S FUTURE HUSBAND to be aired in 2014 on UP TV.
Theatre highlights include Bus Stop at the Pasadena Playhouse; Tony Kushner's The Illusion for the Los Angeles Theatre Center; Long Time Coming at the Powerhouse Theatre; Charlie Bacon's Family at the John Drew Theatre in East Hampton; and The Trip Back Down at the Actor's Repertory Theatre. Her personal favorite was as Sally Bowles in both the National Tour and the Broadway Studio 54 production of Sam Mendes' revival of Cabaret. More recently back in Los Angeles, Thompson has perfomed in The Vagina Monologues, the LA Reprise Series of I Love My Wife with Jason Alexander. And on the East Coast, Lea played the title character in the debut of Caroline In Jersey (no relation to Caroline in The City!) at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, and a workshop for Please Don't Eat The Daisies.
Branching out, Thompson starred in Big Fish's computer Game, Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake, working with her daughter, Madelyn Deutch, who appears in the game as well. Big Fish is the world's largest casual game company: their MCF series is their most popular game franchise and has been played worldwide by more than 100 million people.
Currently, Lea is working on a new Disney animated series PENN ZERO: PART-TIME HERO with David Hasselhoff. Lea can often be seen performing for various charity functions around Los Angeles such as What A Pair for breast cancer research, the Alzheimer's Association, the WeSpark Foundation, and the Schleroderma Foundation, to name a few. Thompson resides in Los Angeles with her husband of 24 years, film director Howard Deutch, their two talented daughters, Zoey and Madelyn, and a menagerie of dogs, a cat, a parrot, a rabbit, an old land tortoise, horses, and countless fish and chickens.
Lorraine Baines McFly
Padding into the kitchen in bedroom slippers, wearing a turtleneck sweater, striped blouse and polyester stretch pants is Loraine Baines McFly, a plumpish, middle-aged housewife who pours herself a glass of vodka before joining her family for dinner.
Jumping into a dressing room in a T-shirt and black mini-skirt is a pretty 24-year-old actress with shiny chestnut hair, perfect skin and a dimpled smile.
What do these two women have in common? Simple. They are both Lea Thompson, a talented young actress who meets a difficult acting challenge head on in "Back to the Future."
As Lorraine Baines, Thompson portrays a flirtatious young 17-year-old high school student attending Hill Valley High in 1955. Thirty years later, she is Lorraine Baines McFly, an unhappy housewife who married her high school sweetheart and had three children.
"When I first read the script, I thought it was such an interesting story," explains Thompson.
Thompson, who was born in Minneapolis in 1961, had to do plenty of research to get a feel for teenage life in the '50s. "Usually I go back to high school to study for a movie, but there's no way to go back to a '50s high school, so I tried to read magazines, watch movies and talk to older women who were in high school in the '50s. Once I got to see the sets, and had my hair done and got into costumes, it was all like being zapped into the past, and the character just came to me," she says.
As for the aging process, which took place in a make-up trailer each day for several weeks, Thompson says she got used to the three and a half hour sessions and the gradual process helped to prepare for her 47-year-old character.
"One night I left my old age make-up on, drove home and walked in the doorway while my mother was staying with me. She took one look at me and said 'cowabunga!' I had almost forgot I had it on, but she insisted 'You don't look like me, you look older than me!' And of course, she was right."
After several months in production as a teenager, circa 1955, Thompson admits that she grew very fond of the time period. "There was just a lot of fun and innocence about the 150s," she says. "I also enjoyed the hair styles; it's kind of sculpted with a whole different feeling. And I love the cars. I've got a '55 Chevy."
A professional dancer at the age of 14, Thompson won scholarships with both the American Ballet Theatre and the San Francisco Ballet before deciding to pursue a career as an actress at the age of 20.
Following a move to New York, she was cast in several commercials before winning a small role in "Jaws III." Her next role was that of Lisa Lietske, Tom Cruise's girfriend in "All the Right Moves," which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences alike. That part led to A challenging role as a teenage guerilla fighter in John Milius' adventure- drama, "Red Dawn." She has also starred in Universal's "The Wild Life" and will be seen in the upcoming British feature "Yellow Pages."
Steven Spielberg presents a Robert Zemeckis film "Back to the Future," starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson. The screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, with music by Alan Silvestri. It is produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. The executive producers are Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. The director is Robert Zemeckis.
as of June 5, 1985
Lorraine Baines McFly Tannen
As most young actors progress through their career, one of the most difficult stages they face is the transition from their portrayal of teens to being accepted by audiences in adult roles. Lea Thompson made that transition in the course of a single film, as she played high school teenager Lorraine Baines and the 47-year-old housewife Lorraine McFly in "Back to the Future."
In "Back to the Future Part II," Thompson may well have made some additional acting transitions with her portrayals of new incarnations of Lorraine. In the altered 1985, Lorraine is still 47, but her appearance and lifestyle have changed dramatically as the wife of Biff Tannen. Should any filmmaker need to cast the part of a sprightly septagenarian, they need look no further than Thompson's performance as 77-year-old grandmother Lorraine.
"What makes 'Back to the Future' films so wonderful for me as an actress, and I think for audiences as well," says Thompson, "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. When they told me I would be playing both young and old Lorraine, I knew it would be a tremendous challenge. When they told me what they had in mind for part two, I couldn't wait to get started."
A native of Minneapolis, Thompson moved to New York at the age of 19 after a stint in professional ballet and modern dance to pursue a career as an actress. She was cast in a series of 22 commercials for Burger King, which led to a small role in the feature "Jaws 3-D." Her next role was that of Tom Cruise's girlfriend in "All the Right Moves," a role which brought her to the attention of both audiences and critics. This was followed by her work with director John Milius in "Red Dawn," in which she played a teenage guerilla fighter, helping to fend off a Russian invasion of the United States. Prior to her casting in "Back to the Future," Thompson starred in "The Wild Life."
Following her first experience as Lorraine Baines McFly, Thompson went on to star in features such as "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Howard the Duck," "Space Camp," "The Wizard of Loneliness" and "Casual Sex?"
The actress most recently starred in the Turner Network production of "NighBreaker," for which she received an Ace Award nomination, and in an episode of the HBO series, "Tales From the Crypt." She also completed the Turner Network presentation of "Montana," written by Larry McMurtry.
Steven Spielberg Presents A Robert Zemeckis Film. "Back to the Future Part II." Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson. Music by Alan Silvestri. Edited by Arthur Schmidt, Harry Keramidas. Production Design by Rick Carter. Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, A.S.C. Executive Producers, Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy. Story by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. Screenplay by Bob Gale. Produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. A Universal Picture.
as of October 24, 1989
Maggie McFly; Lorraine McFly
When Lea Thompson agreed to participate in the "Back to the Future" sequels, she naturally assumed that she would once again return to the role of Lorraine. She was not however, prepared for the number of different Lorraines she would ultimately play.
In "Back to the Future Part II," she appeared as the 17-year-old Lorraine Baines, the 77-year-old Lorraine McFly, and two versions of a 47-year-old Lorraine. For "Back to the Future Part III," the actress reprises the role of Lorraine at 47 and had another pleasant surprise waiting for her. "I got to play my first 'Back to the Future' character who isn't another incarnation of Lorraine."
Although she wasn't playing Marty's mother, Lea's character is still a relative of our hero, as she assumes the guise of Maggie McFly, Marty's great-great grandmother.
"Maggie is an immigrant who comes from good Irish stock," explains Lea. "I visited Ireland last year and met a woman there who I used as inspiration for Maggie. Also, I'm of Irish ancestry, and I saw a lot of righteous indignation in her character, which reminded me a lot of my own grandmother."
Thompson researched the time period in preparation for the role. "I read Trinity to try to get an idea of what those people were feeling and experiencing at the time. I worked with a dialogue coach to perfect the accent, and the wardrobe itself played an important part in establishing the way I played the character. Wearing a corset, for instance, makes you sit up higher and creates a more formal attitude."
Thompson acknowledges the importance of research but was also careful not to immerse herself too deeply in historical data. "I did want to know what it would have been like to have lived in the 1800's, but only up to a certain point, since this is 'Back to the Future,' which is its own distinct world.
"The situations we portray in this film are a great deal funnier and a lot more comfortable than was the reality of the Old West. Actually, if we were presenting a true depiction of 1885, I wouldn't have had much fun, since it was not a good time to be a woman in the West. Women worked extremely hard and had no rights. They couldn't own land, they couldn't have a passport, and they had to skin a lot of rabbits."
"The most important thing for an actor to remember is that no matter what year your story is set in, people are just people. Their urges, desires and frailties remain the same from generation to generation. Everyone back then had the same feelings that we experience now, be it love, fear, greed or whatever. If you distance yourself too far, or become overly obsessed in being factually correct, you risk the possibility of an audience not being able to relate to or accept your character."
Thompson has definitely adhered to that policy, as audiences worldwide have not only accepted her characters, but have taken them to their hearts, no matter which version of Lorraine she has portrayed. Summing up her feelings at the completion of the trilogy, Thompson expresses appreciation for the opportunities the filmmakers have afforded her over the past five years, as well as the diverse range of characters created for her. "My agent once told me that in the movies, women either play virgins, whores or mothers. The great thing about the 'Back to the Future' movies is that I got to play all three."
Steven Spielberg Presents A Robert Zemeckis Film. "Back to the Future Part III." Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson. Music by Alan Silvestri. Edited by Arthur Schmidt, Harry Keramidas. Production Design by Rick Carter. Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, A.S.C. Executive Producers, Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy. Story by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. Screenplay by Bob Gale. Produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. A Universal Picture.
as of April 24, 1990