Lea Thompson is an American actress, producer and director. She is best known for her roles as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy and in NBC’s 1990s sitcom Caroline in the City. 


Thompson is the youngest of five children to parents Barbara and Clifford. She was born in Rochester, Minnesota, on May 31, 1961 (age: 60). Her family lived in the Starlight Motel, where she and her siblings shared one room. In time, Thompson’s father landed a job in Minneapolis, packing the family up to move for better life.

However, her parents divorced when she was six-years-old, and her mother took command of the family although she was an alcoholic. Barbara eventually kicked her old habit and maintained a job singing and playing the piano at a bar to provide for the kids. Soon, she remarried.

In Minneapolis, Thompson attended Marshall-University High School.

Thompson was also a talented ballet dancer from a young age. Her first role was a mouse in The Nutcracker. By the time she was 14, Thompson had performed in over 45 ballets on stages including The Minnesota Dance Theatre, The Pennsylvania Ballet Company and The Ballet Repertory. The aspiring dancer had won scholarships to The American Ballet Theatre and The San Francisco Ballet.

However, Thompson’s ballet dreams came to a screeching halt when she auditioned for Mikhail Baryshnikov at 19-years-old. He later said she was, “a beautiful dancer… but too stocky.” At this point, Thompson directed her energy into acting.


When she was just starting out, Thompson made money by waiting tables and starring in 22 Burger King commercials and a few Twix commercials. In 1982, she was in the interactive movie, Murder, Anyone, in which players would select their desired chapters to watch and try to solve the murder of a wealthy man.

Thompson’s first role was as a water ski bunny in Jaws 3-D (1983) despite her inability to swim or ski. In her next film, she co-starred with Tom Cruise in All the Right Moves (1983). However, director Michael Chapman was so dissatisfied with her performance that he nearly fired the 22-year-old at the time. Thompson continued to star as a teenager in movies such as Red Dawn (1984), The Wild Life (1984) and Yellow Pages (1985).

In 1985, Thompson had her big break in the first Back to the Future, which ended up being the biggest hit of the year. She suddenly became a well-known and wanted actress. Thompson was offered a role in Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) and won the Young Artist Award for best young actress for her performance, although she had originally declined the part.

Her first film as a grown woman character came in 1988 with The Wizard of Loneliness. Thompson then starred in several more movies including Dennis the Menace (1993), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and more before landing a big role on NBC’s sitcom Caroline in the City. For Thompson’s work on this TV series, she won the People’s Choice Award for best actress in a new sitcom in 1996. Nonetheless, the show was continually switched to poor time slots, ultimately ending the series due to its low ratings.

Later, Thompson guest-starred in an episode of The Larry Sanders Show and later on Friends. She also performed in the Broadway musical Cabaret as Salle Bowles for eight months and on The Vagina Monologues in Los Angeles.

Thompson also acted in and directed ABC’s Switched at Birth, which aired from 2011 to 2017.

In 2018, Thompson and her daughters Madelyn and Zoey Deutch released the family-made film The Year of Spectacular Men. Madelyn composed the music, wrote the screenplay and acted in it with Zoey, who played sisters in the movie. This is the first film Thompson has directed and her husband, Howard Deutch, produced it.


Thompson and her daughter Madelyn Deutch sat down for an exclusive interview to discuss their newly released movie, The Year of Spectacular Men.

Deutch said the plot involves a rudderless college graduate, Izzy, who moves in with her sister while trying to figure out a career and dates five men over the course of that year.

Although the two admitted working on a set with their family can be trying, Thompson called it one of the “greatest experiences” of her “artistic life.” She also said it was her first experience being apart of a production from the very beginning.

“But it was one of those crazy things, because even though I’ve been in Hollywood for a long time, you might know me from Back to the Future or Some Kind of Wonderful, Caroline in the City, I’ve been around for a very long time,” Thompson said. “I had never been from the ground level of something, you know I always kind of come in when it’s already set up. So, I got to learn a lot and we all learned a lot, we all gave each other jobs that no one else would give us.”

Deutch said there wasn’t just one emblematic moment of the tiring film-making process, for there were plenty of off-screen milestones.

“For me, the kind of most significant moments have been the times we pushed through the moments where a lot of people might have given up, cause it’s really hard. So like, when you’re physically shooting the movie, that’s the fun part, right? Like that’s not the part I think of necessarily being emblematic [of the experience],” Deutch said. “I think of when we got the budget for the film, I really think of that moment. I think of us getting in where we premiered the movie, L.A. Film Festival, those are the real heroes of the journey.”

In terms of the movie’s message, Deutch related it back to what she calls the “mission statement” of the film: to showcase the decade between women graduating high school and beginning motherhood and or a full-time job.

“The message of the film is baked into why we made it. I wanted to make this movie because I don’t think people make movies for millennial women,” Deutch said. “The message is – here’s your movie, no one else made it.”


Thompson married the father of her children, Howard Deutch, in 1989 after meeting him on the set of the film he directed and cast her in, Some Kind of Wonderful. She had actually been engaged to Dennis Quaid, who she met on the set of Jaws 3-D, for three years before meeting Deutch. Nonetheless, the two fell in love while filming Some Kind of Wonderful, so Thompson called things off with Quaid.

Thompson delivered her first daughter, Madelyn, in 1991. Zoey was born just three years after.

She is on Instagram as @lea_thompson and Twitter as @LeaKThompson.

Thompson is currently 57-years-old and is 5’3″.


“In my deepest parts of my sadness, I’m always making a joke or being sarcastic.” 

“My beauty secret is to try to keep my heart as open and happy as I can because it really makes the sad lines on my face look better.”

“One of the things I like about looking at pictures of when you’re young and also meeting back with old friends you haven’t seen in a long time is, for me, it’s a glimpse of who I was.”

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