Houston, Texas, 9 April 1954; younger brother of the actor Randy Quaid.
Attended public school in Houston; and the University of Houston, which
he left before graduating.
Married 1) the actress P. J. Soles (divorced); 2) the actress Meg Ryan,
1991, son: Jack Henry.
1975—film debut in
; 1983—stage debut, off-Broadway,
The Last of the Knucklemen
, followed by stage work in both New York and Los Angeles (including
, 1984); has also written songs; played piano and guitar, and sung with
his band, the Eclectics; 1989—formed Summers/Quaid Productions with
International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly
Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
Crazy Mama (Jonathan Demme) (as extra)
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (Page); 9/30/55 ( September 30, 1955 ; 24 Hours of the Rebel ) (Bridges) (as Frank)
Are You in the House Alone? (Grauman—for TV); The Seniors (Amateau) (as Alan); Our Winning Season (Ruben)(as Paul Morelli)
Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (Schumacher—for TV); Breaking Away (Yates) (as Mike)
Gorp (Ruben) (as Mad Grossman); The Long Riders (Walter Hill) (as Ed Miller)
All Night Long (Tramont) (as Freddie Dupler); Caveman (Gottlieb) (as Lar); The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (Maxwell) (as Travis Child); Bill (Page—for TV)(as Barry Morrow)
Johnny Belinda (Harvey—for TV) (as Kyle)
Bill: On His Own (Page—for TV) (as Barry Morrow); Jaws 3-D ( Jaws III ) (Alves) (as Mike Brody); The Right Stuff (Kaufman) (as Gordon "Gordo" Cooper); Tough Enough (Fleischer) (as Art Long)
Dreamscape (Ruben) (as Alex Gardner)
Enemy Mine (Petersen) (as Davidge)
The Big Easy (McBride) (as Remy McSwain); Innerspace (Dante) (as Lt. Tuck Pendleton); Suspect (Yates) (as Eddie Sanger)
D.O.A. (Morton and Jankel) (as Dexter Cornell); Everybody's All-American (Hackford) (as Gavin Grey)
Great Balls of Fire! (McBride) (as Jerry Lee Lewis)
Come See the Paradise (Alan Parker) (as Jack McGurn); Postcards from the Edge (Mike Nichols) (as Jack Falkner)
Flesh and Bone (Kloves) (as Arlis Sweeney); Undercover Blues (Ross) (as Jeff Blue); Wilder Napalm (Caron) (as Wallace Foudroyant)
Wyatt Earp (Kasdan) (as Doc Holliday)
Something to Talk About (Hallström) (as Eddie Bichon)
Dragonheart (Cohen) (as Bowen)
Gang Related (Kouf) (as William); Switchback (Stuart) (as Frank LaCrosse)
The Parent Trap (Nancy Meyers) (as Nick Parker); Panama Canal: The Eighth Wonder of the World (Vink—for TV)(as Narrator); Savior (Antonijevic) (as Joshua Rose/Guy); Everything That Rises (as Jim Clay + dir, exec prod—for TV)
Any Given Sunday (Stone) (as Jack "Cap" Rooney)
Frequency (Hoblit) (as Frank Sullivan)
"When Dennis Met Meg," interview with George Kalogerakis, in Vogue (New York), November 1993.
"The (Almost) Born-Again Dennis Quaid," interview with Nancy Mills, in Cosmopolitan , June 1994.
"Dennis the Menaced," interview with Steve Grant, in Time Out (London), 9 October 1996.
Birnbaum, Gail, Dennis Quaid , New York, 1988.
Taylor, Clarke, "Dennis Quaid: A Quandary at a Career Crossroads," in Los Angeles Times , 2 January 1984.
Seeley, David, "Dennis, Anyone?," in Playboy (Chicago), December 1987.
Haskell, Molly, "Sympathy for the Devilish: Hollywood's New Man—Not Afraid of Women," in Vogue (New York), March 1988.
Hoban, Phoebe, "The Quintessential Dennis Quaid," in Cosmopolitan , March 1988.
Greene, Bob, "Getting Quaid," in Esquire (New York), April 1988.
Norman, Michael, "Dennis Quaid Can't Sit Still: A Young Actor Rocks on the Cusp of Stardom," in New York Times Magazine , 6 November 1988.
Tosches, Nick, "Playing the Killer," in Vogue (New York), July 1989.
Natale, Richard, "Lose 43 Pounds. Ride a Horse. Emote. Just Another Day at the OK Corral," in Los Angeles Times , 19 June 1994.
Draper, R., "The Tao of Dennis," in Premier (Boulder) , February 1995.
* * *
Dennis Quaid is consummately a genre actor. His career alternates comedies, musicals, and Westerns with sci-fi films, neo-films noir, and melodramas. He thus works in a frame of Hollywood tradition: twice over, in that his physical form—tall, well-muscled yet lithe, with a trademark grin—echoes not his immediate "New Hollywood" predecessors but much earlier Hollywood leading men. Connecting to an even older tradition, Quaid specializes in men on quests. But he brings a responsiveness and humor to his adventurers which marks them as products of his feminist-influenced times.
His acting style itself injects a contemporary note. He works avidly to make his characters' contours and capacities part of his body: he learned to fly to play an astronaut, pounded a piano hours a day to play a rock star, gained 40 pounds for one role, lost 40 for another. In this Quaid is a quintessential "post-Method" actor. Whatever his personal take on Lee Strasberg's Method (which the New York Times Magazine reports he "will mention" but not "intellectualize"), his devotion, first, to "living" his parts, and, second, to transforming conventions demonstrates his embrace of the Method's two central precepts—which have exceeded their roots in the teachings of Stanislavski and Strasberg and permeated Hollywood since the 1950s.
The conjunction of new techniques in acting—and in filmmaking overall—with established story structures makes Dennis Quaid's movies entertaining. Unfortunately, in Hollywood at a time when stars are defined by their ability to carry blockbuster franchises, usually through many sequels, Quaid's versatility may have kept him from becoming the superstar he seemed primed to become in the late 1980s. Nonetheless he has worked quite steadily since the late 1970s. The first phase of Quaid's career found him moving from bit parts to large supporting roles in a string of youth sex comedies and melodramas; in 1979, he got his first real notice as the angriest young man in Breaking Away . Over the next four years he worked at a middle level in television films and features, in some well-received projects ( The Long Riders , Bill ) and some misses ( Caveman , Jaws 3-D ).
In 1983 he found the wellspring of the adventurer type he would come to embody, with the role of cocky, intense but relaxed space traveler "Gordo" Cooper in The Right Stuff (one of three biopics in Quaid's catalog). Between 1984 and 1990 Quaid became a full-fledged leading man, playing the searcher in cycles of sci-fi films ( Dreamscape , Enemy Mine , Innerspace ), and perverse crime stories ( The Big Easy , Suspect, D.O.A .). Easy made him a heartthrob of the moment, as his corrupt but charming police detective set out on a quest across the landscape of uptight female sexuality in the person of Ellen Barkin. Quaid's next two films also grapple with harsh romance. The aging athlete of Everybody's All-American seems a later chapter in the coming-of-age sports melodramas Quaid had done in his early days. Playing Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire! similarly followed from Quaid's previous, lesser-known country-rock musicals ( Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill , The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia , Tough Enough ), bringing on-screen his talents for singing and songwriting.
But neither All-American nor Fire! were huge hits, perhaps in part because they both concern pioneering heroes who fail as much as they succeed. Come See the Paradise resembled some of Quaid's previous work with its theme of cross-racial inclusivity ( Enemy Mine )—but its questioning of U.S. wartime policies did not match the tenor of the Gulf War. After taking two years off to kick cocaine, get married, and have a son, Quaid returned with three leading roles in 1993, the most well-reviewed being the country noir Flesh and Bone which co-starred his wife, Meg Ryan. Quaid turned to supporting roles for two years (it was to play tubercular Doc Holliday in Wyatt Earp that he lost 40 pounds). Dragonheart put him back at center stage, literalizing Quaid's affinity for his cardinal genre, the knight's quest, as revved up with state-of-the-art special effects, in an attempt to reunite a fine actor with box-office success.