James Tolkan

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Tolkan is known for his role in the 1985 film Back to the Future as the strict, disciplinarian Hill Valley High School principal Gerald Strickland. He referred to Marty McFly, his father, and Biff Tannen derisively as “slackers.” He reprised the role in the 1989 sequel Back to the Future Part II, where unnamed gang members made a drive-by assault on him in a bleak alternate present (then 1985). He also referred to these criminals as “slackers” as he shot back. In 1990, he played the part of Mr. Strickland’s grandfather in Back to the Future Part III.

Other well-known roles include an FBI agent in WarGames and Stinger, the no-nonsense officer in the 1986 box-office hit Top Gun. He portrayed the role of cold and determined District Attorney Polito in Sidney Lumet’s Prince of the City. He also appeared in the 1987 film Masters of the Universe as Detective Lubic. He played a dual role in the Woody Allen comedy Love and Death, playing both Napoleon and a look-alike. He also appeared as Big Boy Caprice’s accountant “Numbers” in the 1990 Warren Beatty film Dick Tracy.

Tolkan has also made guest appearances on many TV shows, including Naked City, Remington Steele, Miami Vice and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. A member of the repertory cast of A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001–2002), he played more than a dozen varied roles in the A&E TV series and also directed two episodes (“Die Like a Dog” and “The Next Witness”).


Phil Spector (TV Movie)
Judge Fidler

2011 Leverage (TV Series)
Dean Chesny
– The Cross My Heart Job (2011) … Dean Chesny

2006 Heavens Fall
Thomas Knight, Sr.

2004 Seven Times Lucky

2001-2002 A Nero Wolfe Mystery (TV Series)
FBI Agent Richard Wragg / Benedict Aiken / Leo Bingham / …
– Cop Killer (2002) … Ed Graboff
– The Silent Speaker: Part 2 (2002) … FBI Agent Richard Wragg
– The Silent Speaker: Part 1 (2002) … FBI Agent Richard Wragg
– Help Wanted, Male (2002) … Ben Jenson
– Too Many Clients: Part 2 (2002) … Benedict Aiken

1999 Wings: Thrill of Flight

1997 The Pretender (TV Series)
FBI Special Agent Korkos
– Dragon House: Part 1 (1997) … FBI Special Agent Korkos
– Dragon House: Part 2 (1997) … FBI Special Agent Korkos

1997 Love in Ambush
Agent Price

1997 Robo Warriors

1996 Early Edition (TV Series)
Coach Philips
– Hoops (1996) … Coach Philips

1996 Underworld
Dan ‘Iceberg’ Eagan

1996 Nowhere Man (TV Series)
Commander Cyrus Quinn
– Heart of Darkness (1996) … Commander Cyrus Quinn

1996 Top Gun: Fire at Will (Video Game)
Commander Hondo

1995 Sketch Artist II: Hands That See (TV Movie)

1994 Beyond Betrayal (TV Movie)
Joe Maloney

1993-1994 Cobra (TV Series)
Dallas Cassel
– Aces and Eights (1994) … Dallas Cassel
– Precious (1994) … Dallas Cassel
– Lorinda (1994) … Dallas Cassel
– Haunted Lives (1994) … Dallas Cassel
– A Few Dead Men (1994) … Dallas Cassel

1994 River of Stone

1993/I Boiling Point

1993 The Wonder Years (TV Series)
Coach Silva
– Hulk Arnold (1993) … Coach Silva

1992-1993 The Hat Squad (TV Series)
Mike Ragland
– Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous (1993) … Mike Ragland
– The Widow Marker (1992) … Mike Ragland
– Pilot (1992) … Mike Ragland

1992 Bloodfist IV: Die Trying (Video)
Agent Sterling

1992 Sketch Artist (TV Movie)

1992 Tequila and Bonetti (TV Series)
– Fetch This, Pal (1992)

1991 Problem Child 2
Mr. Thorn

1991 Tales from the Crypt (TV Series)
Sgt. McClaine
– The Trap (1991) … Sgt. McClaine

1991 Driving Me Crazy

1991 Hangfire

1990 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (TV Series)
Dr. Oates
– Day Damn One (1990) … Dr. Oates

1990 Dick Tracy

1990 Back to the Future Part III
Marshal James Strickland

1990 Sunset Beat (TV Movie)
Ray Parker

1990 Sunset Beat (TV Series)
Ray Parker
– One Down, Four Up (1990) … Ray Parker

1990 Opportunity Knocks

1989 Family Business
Judge (as James S. Tolkan)

1989 Back to the Future Part II

1989 Second Sight

1989 Ministry of Vengeance
Col. Freeman

1989 True Blood
Det. Joseph Hanley

1989 The Case of the Hillside Stranglers (TV Movie)
Lt. Ed Henderson

1989 The Equalizer (TV Series)
– The Visitation (1989) … Ruger

1988 Split Decisions
Benny Pistone

1988 Leap of Faith (TV Movie)
Doctor Siegel

1988 Viper
Col. William Tansey

1988 Weekend War (TV Movie)
Dr. Alex Thompson (as James B. Tolkan)

1987 Miami Vice (TV Series)
Mason Mather
– Amen… Send Money (1987) … Mason Mather

1987 Made in Heaven
Mr. Bjornstead

1987 Masters of the Universe
Detective Lubic

1985-1987 Remington Steele (TV Series)
Norman Keyes
– The Steele That Wouldn’t Die: Part 1 (1987) … Norman Keyes
– The Steele That Wouldn’t Die: Part 2 (1987) … Norman Keyes
– Bonds of Steele (1986) … Norman Keyes
– Forged Steele (1985) … Norman Keyes
– Diced Steele (1985) … Norman Keyes

1986 Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (TV Series)
The Kennel Master
– Little Spies (1986) … The Kennel Master

1986 Armed and Dangerous
Lou Brackman

1986 Top Gun

1986 Off Beat

1985-1986 Mary (TV Series)
Lester Mintz
– Steppin’ Out with Mary Brenner (1986) … Lester Mintz
– Little Jo (1986) … Lester Mintz
– And the Winner Is (1986) … Lester Mintz
– Mr. Lucky (1986) … Lester Mintz
– Table for Two (1986) … Lester Mintz

1985 Walls of Glass

1985 Back to the Future
Mr. Strickland

1985 Hill Street Blues (TV Series)
Coach Beasley
– Queen for a Day (1985) … Coach Beasley

1985 Turk 182!

1984 The River
Howard Simpson

1984 Iceman

1983 Nightmares
Voice of The Bishop (segment “Bishop of Battle”) (voice)

1983 WarGames

1983 American Playhouse (TV Series)
– Wings (1983) … Billy

1982 Author! Author!
Lt. Glass

1982 Hanky Panky

1981 Prince of the City
District Attorney Polito

1981 Wolfen

1979 The Amityville Horror

1976 Independence (Short)
Tom Paine

1975 Love and Death

1973 Serpico
Steiger (as James Tolkin)

1973 The Werewolf of Washington
Dark Glasses

1973 The Friends of Eddie Coyle
The Man’s contact man

1971 They Might Be Giants
Mr. Brown

1969 Stiletto

1969 N.Y.P.D. (TV Series)
– The Night Watch (1969)

1966 The Three Sisters (as James Tolkin)

1962 Armstrong Circle Theatre (TV Series)
Stefan Malwitz
– The Man Who Refused to Die (1962) … Stefan Malwitz
– Episode #12.22 (1962) … Stefan Malwitz

1960 Naked City (TV Series)
Mail Clerk
– The Man Who Bit a Diamond in Half (1960) … Mail Clerk (as Jim Tolkan)