Michael Leonard Ontkean (born 24 January 1946)[1] is a retired Canadian actor.[2] Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Ontkean relocated to the United States to attend the University of New Hampshire on a hockey scholarship before pursuing a career in acting in the early 1970s.

Michael Ontkean
Ontkean in The Rookies (1973)
Michael Leonard Ontkean

(1946-01-24) 24 January 1946 (age 77)
Alma materUniversity of New Hampshire
Years active1955–2011
Frances E. Knight
(m. 1971; div. 1980)
Jamie Smith-Jackson
(m. 1987; div. 2019)

He initially came to prominence portraying Officer Willie Gillis on the crime drama series The Rookies from 1972 to 1974, followed by lead roles in the hockey sports comedy film Slap Shot (1977) and the romantic comedy Willie & Phil (1980). In 1982, he had a starring role opposite Harry Hamlin and Kate Jackson in the drama Making Love, in which he portrayed a married man who comes to terms with his homosexuality. Ontkean continued to appear in films, such as Clara's Heart (1988) and Postcards from the Edge (1990) before being cast as Sheriff Harry S. Truman on David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990–1991), the role for which he is probably best known.

Early life edit

Ontkean was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, the son of Muriel (née Cooper), an actress, and Leonard Ontkean, a boxer and actor. He was a child actor in Vancouver, appearing on the Canadian television series Hudson's Bay (1959).[3] His family later relocated to Toronto, where he attended St. Michael's Choir School and Holy Rosary Catholic School before attending St. Michael's College School. He grew up playing hockey and he earned a hockey scholarship to the University of New Hampshire, a Division I program playing in the ECAC. In his three years on the varsity program, Ontkean scored 63 goals and 111 points in 85 games played.[4] He led the team in goal scoring his junior year with 30 goals, and was second behind fellow Canadian Louis Frigon his senior year.[citation needed]

Career edit

Ontkean began in Hollywood by guest starring in The Partridge Family in 1971, and he was a television guest player on such shows as Ironside and Longstreet, but his break was in the ABC series The Rookies (1972–1976),[2] in which he played Officer Willie Gillis for the first two seasons.[citation needed] He was replaced by actor, Bruce Fairbairn in The Rookies.[5] Ontkean's hockey skill played a large role in his landing the role of Ned Braden in Slap Shot (1977),[2] as he performed all of his on-ice shots himself. In 1979, he appeared in the first episode of Tales of the Unexpected.

Other early movie roles included Necromancy (1972) with Orson Welles; Voices (1979) with Amy Irving; Willie & Phil (1980) with Margot Kidder; The Blood of Others (1984); Kids Don't Tell (1985) with JoBeth Williams; The Right of the People (1986); The Allnighter and Maid to Order (both 1987) (the latter with Ally Sheedy); Clara's Heart (1988) with Whoopi Goldberg, and Bye Bye Blues (1989).[6]

Making Love edit

Making Love (1982) is about a married man who discovers his homosexuality. Ontkean was not the director's first choice for the film: Arthur Hiller had previously approached Tom Berenger, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, William Hurt and Peter Strauss to play the lead, before finally approaching Ontkean. According to Hiller, the reaction of most actors was to tell him not to even consider them for the role.[7] The film reunited Ontkean with Kate Jackson; the two had previously co-starred together in The Rookies. Many years later, Ontkean tried to prevent clips from the film from being included in The Celluloid Closet, a 1995 documentary about LGBT characters in film, but he was unsuccessful.[8]

Twin Peaks edit

Ontkean appeared as Sheriff Harry S. Truman in David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks (1990–1991).[9] He filmed scenes for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me but, like many others from the original TV series, his scenes were deleted from the final film.[10]

After Twin Peaks edit

Ontkean subsequently appeared in many film and television productions including In Defense of a Married Man (1990); In a Child's Name (1991) with Valerie Bertinelli; Legacy of Lies (1992); Rapture and Vendetta II: The New Mafia (both 1993); Swann: A Mystery and The Stepford Husbands (both 1996); Summer of the Monkeys and A Chance of Snow (both 1998; the latter again with JoBeth Williams); Bear with Me (2000), and Mrs. Ashboro's Cat (2003).

Ontkean had a recurring role on Fox's short-lived series North Shore in 2004, and also appeared in the 2008 comedy TV show Sophie.

The Descendants and retirement edit

He had a supporting role in the 2011 film The Descendants, which was his last role to date before he decided to retire from acting.[11] The movie was filmed in Hawaii, where he lives.

Ontkean was approached to reprise his role as Sheriff Truman for the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks. At first, Ontkean was reportedly excited about returning to the role, and enlisted Twin Peaks authority Brad Dukes to help him find the jacket which his character once wore on the show. Dukes located a suitable replica, bought it and sent it to Ontkean. However, in 2015, Ontkean dropped out of the Twin Peaks revival, for reasons which were never made public. Dukes recalled: "We last spoke in August and he informed me he wasn't going to Washington after all. I told him I was heartbroken to hear that. Aside from being heartbroken, I am puzzled. Twin Peaks is not Twin Peaks without Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman."[12]

Ontkean's role was replaced by Robert Forster, playing Sheriff Truman's brother Frank. Forster was initially David Lynch's first choice to play Harry Truman in 1990.[13]

Personal life edit

Michael was married to Jamie Smith-Jackson, an actress and design director and owner of Jamie Jackson Design. The couple later divorced; they have two daughters, Jenna Millman and Sadie Sapphire Ontkean.[14][15][16]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Year Title Role Notes
1971 The Peace Killers Jeff
1972 Necromancy Frank Brandon
1972 Pickup on 101 Chuck
1972 Hot Summer Week Will
1977 Slap Shot Ned Braden
1979 Voices Drew Rothman
1980 Willie & Phil Willie Kaufman
1982 Making Love Zach
1984 The Blood of Others Jean
1984 Just the Way You Are Peter Nichols
1987 The Allnighter Mickey
1987 Maid to Order Nick McGuire
1987 Street Justice Curt Flynn
1988 Clara's Heart Bill Hart
1989 Bye Bye Blues Teddy Harper
1989 Cold Front Derek McKenzie
1990 Postcards from the Edge Robert Munch
1992 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me Sheriff Harry S. Truman Scenes deleted. Later featured in Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces.
1996 Swann Stephen
1998 Summer of the Monkeys John Lee
1998 Nico the Unicorn Tom Gentry
1999 Just a Little Harmless Sex Jeff
2011 The Descendants Cousin Milo Final role (to date)

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
1957 Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans Cochea Episode: "The Wild One"
1959 Hudson's Bay Jeremy Warrant Episode: "Pierre's Three Evils"
1970 Ironside Man Episode: "Noel's Gonna Fly"
1970 Dan August Mike Foschke Episode: "The Soldier"
1971 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Alcide Episode: "The Boy from Dead Man's Bayou"
1971 The Partridge Family Lester Braddock Episode: "Not With My Sister, You Don't!"
1971 Longstreet David De Carie Episode: "So, Who's Fred Hornbeck?"
1972–1974 The Rookies Officer Willie Gillis 47 episodes
1979 Tales of the Unexpected Tommy Episode: "The Man from the South"
1985 Kids Don't Tell John Ryan Television film
1986 The Right of the People Christopher Wells Television film
1989 The Hitchhiker Gordon Brooks Episode: "Square Deal"
1990–1991 Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry S. Truman 30 episodes
1990 In Defense of a Married Man Robert Television film
1991 In a Child's Name Ken Taylor Miniseries
1992 Legacy of Lies Zach Resnick Television film
1993 Rapture Jeff Lisker Television film
1993 Whose Child Is This? The War for Baby Jessica Jan DeBoer Television film
1993 Bride of Violence 2 Hank Parnell Television film
1994 Family Album Ward Thayer Miniseries
1999 PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal John Doe / Wesley Addison Episode: "John Doe"
1996 The Man Next Door Eli Cooley Television film
1996 The Stepford Husbands Mick Davison Television film
1997–2000 The Outer Limits Dr. Field / Dr. Charles McCamber 2 episodes
1998 A Chance of Snow Matthew Parker Television film
2000 Green Sails John Scott Television film
2002 A Killing Spring Tom Keaton Television film
2004 Ghost Cat Wes Merritt Television film
2004–2005 North Shore Gordon Matthews 4 episodes
2008 Sophie Victor Hearst 3 episodes (Final television role to date)

Awards and nominations edit

Year Award Category Production Result
1990 Genie Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Bye Bye Blues Nominated
1991 Soap Opera Digest Award Outstanding Hero: Prime Time Twin Peaks Nominated

References edit

  1. ^ Rose, Mike (24 January 2023). "Today's famous birthdays list for January 24, 2023 includes celebrities Neil Diamond, Aaron Neville". Cleveland.com. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Jason Buchanan (2015). "Michael Ontkean". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015.
  3. ^ "CTVA Canada – "Hudson's Bay" (1959–60)". Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  4. ^ "Michael Ontkean profile". HockeyDB. 28 January 2019.
  5. ^ O'Connor, John (16 March 1975). "TV View". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (24 August 1990). "Review/Film; Balladlike Wartime Tale Of Maturing". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  7. ^ Rutledge, Leigh (1996). The Book of Lists. Boston: Alyson Publications. p. 135. ISBN 978-1555833596.
  8. ^ Baker, Robin; Hanson, Briony (1996). Celluloid Icons. London, UK: Channel 4. p. 17. ISBN 978-1851441723.
  9. ^ O'Connor, John J. (6 April 1990). "TV WEEKEND; A Skewed Vision of a Small Town In 'Twin Peaks'". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "'Twin Peaks': Watch 'Fire Walk With Me' lost scenes before entire series hits Blu-ray -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Michael Ontkean Filmography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2015. Archived from the original on 23 June 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  12. ^ Dom, Pieter (8 October 2015). "Actor Michael Ontkean Not Picking up Harry S. Truman's Sheriff Badge for the New Twin Peaks". welcometotwinpeaks.com.
  13. ^ Testa, Yohana (4 May 2017). "Who's Missing from This Spine-Tingling Twin Peaks Teaser?". Vanity Fair.
  14. ^ "Mildred Smith". Marshall Democrat-News. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Jamie Jackson Design Director and Owner". Jamie Jackson Design. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  16. ^ "FASHION I". Sadie Sapphire. Retrieved 5 August 2018.

External links edit