James Stewart Tolkan (born June 20, 1931) is an American actor, often cast as a strict, overbearing, bald-headed authority figure.
Tolkan was born in Calumet, Michigan, the son of Marjorie and Ralph M. Tolkan, a cattle dealer, and attended the University of Iowa, Coe College, the Actors Studio andEastern Arizona College. Tolkan currently lives in Lake Placid, New York.
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 1989, he played the part of Mr. Strickland's grandfather in Back to the Future Part III. Tolkan would reprise his role as Strickland in additions of playing his character's ancestors and descendants in the 1991 animated seriesspin-off.
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'sPrince 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 bothNapoleon 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").