Thursday, August 07, 2008

Under the radar actors: Dennis Quaid

Always had affection for American actor Dennis Quaid. He's never likely to win an Oscar, been in plenty of underwhelming movies and has a shit-eating quality to his grin that doesn't sit well with some people - but I always enjoy watching him. An all-American everyman, the sort of guy you imagine you could sink a few beers with. Maybe the reality would be different, but that's the quality he projects to me.

His first role of note was ex-quarterback Mike in Breaking Away (1979), a cracking movie about growing up in a town dominated by its university. Quaid nailed the melancholy of a young man who knows the best years of his life are already over. The actor's next standout performance was in crowded astronaut ensemble The Right Stuff (1983), where his natural cocky charm made a significant impact amid a cluster of great acting talent.

Fast forward another four years and you hit Quaid's peak in pop culture terms. He hooked up with America's sweetheart Meg Ryan while they were making Innerspace, gave a crackerjack performance in The Big Easy and cemented his above the title billing opposite Cher in Suspect. All very different films, yet the actor didn't look out of place in any of them. Quaid was everywhere, all at once.

The 90s didn't bring the best choices film-wise, though he shone in the likes of Flesh and Bone (1993) and Wyatt Earp (1994), even if the movies didn't catch fire. Quaid's batting average improved in 2000 with sleeper hit Frequency and Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed mosaic movie Traffic. Two years later the actor got kudos for his role in Far From Heaven, and won hearts in a baseball biopic called The Rookie.

Dennis Quaid's in his 50s now, getting to play a lot of dads, mentors and father figures. Soon he'll cast in roles as cops finishing their last week on the force, or in late bloomer romances. But no matter how old he gets, I hope Quaid still has that twinkle in the corner of his eye. He's survived remarkably well in a Hollywood system that chews through fresh faces in no time, staying under the radar while enhancing almost every film he's in.

1 comment:

PJ Holden said...

I've always had a bit of man-crush on Dennis Quaid.

I was walking back from a meeting at my day job in Belfast (I work in IT when not drawing comics) and we were chatting away when this bloke started walking towards me*. I did a double take, as he smiled at what he must of realised was recognition and then Dennis Quaid wondered off never to be seen by me again.

I was kinda shell shocked... and kept repeating to my boss (who I was walking with) 'That was Dennis Quaid .. DENNIS QUAID... from Inner Space... DENNIS QUAID...'.

(*to get past me to his destination...)

- pj