Michael Ontkean

Michael Ontkean. TCM Overview.

Michael Ontkean was born in 1946 in Vancouver.   He is best known for his film performances in “Slap Shot” with Paul Newman in 1977, “Making Love” in 1982 and for the cult television series “Twin Peaks”.

TCM Overview:

A former child actor with the National Shakespeare Festival Ontkean first came to prominence in the TV series “The Rookies” (ABC, 1972-74).

He has appeared in several films, notably opposite Paul Newman in “Slap Shot” (1977) and in the tame homosexual love story “Making Love” (1982), which reunited him with his TV wife Kate Jackson.

He is best known to contemporary audiences as straight-arrow police chief Harry S. Truman in David Lynch’s TV soap-opera-with-a-twist, “Twin Peaks” (1990). He reprised the role in Lynch’s 1992 feature “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”.

Ontkean also has appeared in many TV movies including opposite Jodie Foster in the WWII thriller “The Blood of Others” (HBO, 1984) and memorably as an accused murderer in “In a Child’s Name” (CBS, 1991).

Michael Ontkean. Wikipedia.

Michael Ontkean is a retired Canadian actor. 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.

He initially came to prominence portraying Officer Willie Gillis on the crime drama series The Rookies from 1972–74, 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).

Ontkean was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, the son of Muriel (néeCooper), 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). 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. He led the team in goal scoring his junior year with 30 goals, and was second behind fellow Canadian Louis Frigon his senior year.

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),[1] in which he played Officer Willie Gillis for the first two seasons.[citation needed] Ontkean’s hockey skill played a large role in his landing the role of Ned Braden in Slap Shot (1977),[1] 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 WellesVoices (1979) with Amy IrvingWillie & Phil (1980) with Margot KidderThe Blood of Others (1984); 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).

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 BerengerMichael DouglasHarrison FordWilliam 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.  The film reunited Ontkean with Kate Jackson; the two had previously co-starred together in The Rookies.

Ontkean appeared as Sheriff Harry S. Truman in David Lynch and Mark Frost‘s Twin Peaks (1990).  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.

Ontkean subsequently appeared in many film and television productions including Kids Don’t Tell (1985) with JoBeth WilliamsThe Right of the People (1986); In Defense of a Married Man (1990); In a Child’s Name (1991) with Valerie BertinelliLegacy of Lies (1992); Raptureand 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. He was featured in the 2011 film The Descendants, which was his last role before he decided to retire from acting.

Ontkean was approached to reprise his role as Sheriff Truman for the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks. At first, Ontkean was 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 officially 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.”

Ontkean’s role was replaced by Robert Forster, playing Sheriff Truman’s brother Frank.

He is married to Jamie Smith Jackson, an actress and design director and owner of Jamie Jackson Design, and they reside in Hawaii. Together they have two daughters, Jenna Millman and Sadie Sapphire Ontkean.

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