Reconsidering Dennis Quaid
Why doesn’t Dennis Quaid have Jeff Bridges’ career? Think about it: They’re both better-looking younger brothers from acting families and gifted musicians who broke out in ’70s coming-of-age films. In Quaid’s case, it was Breaking Away; for Bridges, it was The Last Picture Show, opposite Dennis’ sibling Randy Quaid.
But while Bridges has matured into an Oscar-winning box-office force (True Grit, Tron: Legacy), Quaid has been relegated to low-rent teensploitation fare like the ill-conceived Footloose reboot and Beneath the Darkness, the horror flick currently getting a quiet burial in theaters and on VOD.
What went wrong? Quaid never connected with that one gigantic blockbuster that could’ve cemented his star status—even hits like Something to Talk About and The Parent Trap succeeded in spite, not because of him. He also couldn’t seem to decide whether he wanted to be a leading man, turning on the charisma as a sexy Cajun detective in The Big Easy, or a character actor, burrowing inside himself as Julianne Moore’s closeted gay husband in Far From Heaven.
Yet he gave compelling performances in these films and more, as everybody from rock-and-roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire! to astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff. Still, he didn’t have the right stuff to become a movie megastar, as his turbulent personal life—including a messy divorce from Innerspace costar Meg Ryan—overshadowed his professional accomplishments.
He also fell victim to typecasting, getting pigeonholed as jocks (Everybody’s All-American, Any Given Sunday, The Rookie) and authority figures (the President in American Dreamz, a General in G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, Bill Clinton in HBO’s The Special Relationship). Beneath the Darkness finds him stuck in both modes, as an ex-high-school football star who’s become a pillar of his community—and a murder suspect in the eyes of some local teens.
So what can Quaid do to dig himself out of this rut? Rip a few pages out of the Jeff Bridges playbook and flaunt his musical skills (he hasn’t sung one of his own tunes on film since The Big Easy), saddle up for a Western (he scored a bull’s-eye as a shockingly gaunt Doc Holliday in Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp) and rejuvenate an ’80s sci-fi near-miss. Innerspace 2, anyone?
What’s your favorite Dennis Quaid film? Speak up, Dragonheart and Enemy Mine fans!