Ruggedly handsome with an endearing lopsided grin and seemingly perpetual devil-may-care glint in his eye, Dennis Quaid has evolved into one of Hollywood’s most solid journeyman actors. Once quoted as saying he thought he’d look good with liver spots, Quaid’s weathered maturity mirrors the experience and depth he is able to bring to his roles.
Despite the highly publicized dissolution of his long-time marriage to actress Meg Ryan in 2000, Quaid’s career has continued to flourish, receiving an added boost from the surprise success of the inventive sci-fi thriller Frequency (2000).
Born in Texas in 1954, Quaid followed his big brother Randy’s lead and began acting in high school before leaving college to give Hollywood a try. After several years of many rejections and a few insignificant roles, he was cast in a small coming-of-age film called Breaking Away (1979). With a paltry budget of $2.4 million and no stars, this movie about a group of working class friends in who compete for bragging rights in a bicycle race against silver spoon collegians became a huge box office success, putting Quaid on the map right along with Bloomington, Indiana.
Although the doors to leading Hollywood roles were opened to him, Quaid initially ended up in forgettable films like The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981) and Tough Enough (1983), which at least gave Quaid a chance to showcase his musical talents. Then with his carefree portrayal of astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff (1983), Quaid’s stardom was finally cemented. A few years later, in a film tailor-made for his talents, Quaid charmed audiences as New Orleans detective Remy McSwain in The Big Easy (1986) sharing the screen with Ellen Barkin in one of the sexiest (and amusing) love scenes ever put on film. In Great Balls of Fire (1989) Quaid drew on his own experience as a wild, party-all-night musician to play the role of Jerry Lee Lewis opposite Winona Ryder.
Other strong roles included that of a redneck rapist in Johnny Belinda (1982) opposite Rosanna Arquette, as the best friend of a mentally retarded man played by Mickey Rooney in Bill (1981), and later as Andie MacDowell’s husband in the play adaptation Dinner With Friends (2001). Quaid’s other films include Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), The Rookie (2002), and Far from Heaven (2002) opposite Julianne Moore.
After a spell out of the limelight Quaid recently starred in the second season of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude (2017).