Texas born and bred, Dennis Quaid followed in the shadow of his older brother Randy, beginning to act in high school productions and at Randy's alma mater the University of Houston. Success in a 1974 college production of "Bus Stop" led him to head to L.A. and try his luck. With his killer smile, rugged good looks and well-defined physique, Quaid soon found himself in demand. A role in "The Missouri Breaks" (1976) ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. His first feature role was as one of a group of friends helping Richard Thomas cope with the death of his idol James Dean in James Bridges' overlooked "9/30/55" (1977) but it was his turn as the frustrated Midwestern teenager in "Breaking Away" (1979) that brought Quaid to the attention of Hollywood. Whether he received bad career guidance or just worked for the cash, Quaid's subsequent career veered from prestige material to outright embarrassments.
Teaming with his brother Randy to play the outlaw Miller brothers in Walter Hill's Western "The Long Riders" (1980) was a highlight as was his turn as the cocksure astronaut Gordon Cooper in "The Right Stuff" (1983). These roles allowed the charismatic actor a chance to demonstrate just how good he could be. Throughout much of the early 1980s, however, Quaid was trapped in substandard fare (e.g., "G.O.R.P." 1980, "Jaws 3-D" 1983). After appearing on stage opposite Randy Quaid in Sam Shepard's blistering "True West" in NYC and L.A., his sagging career received a much-needed boost with his excellent turn as a Louisiana detective in "The Big Easy" (1987), directed by Jim McBride. Relaxed and sporting a Cajun accent, the actor was sexy and swaggeringly charming and had palpable onscreen chemistry with co-star Ellen Barkin. While he delivered fine performances in a series of follow-up films, including as a former high school football star in "Everybody's All American" (1988), the movies were not box-office hits. Even an anticipated reteaming with Jim McBride on "Great Balls of Fire" (1989), the biopic of singer Jerry Lee Lewis, failed to find an audience. Off-screen, the actor was battling an addiction to cocaine and following his turn as a roguishly charming cad in "Postcards From the Edge" (1990), he underwent treatment for substance abuse, followed by a two-year self-imposed hiatus from acting.
Returning to work, Quaid starred in three features released in 1993, the bizarre and confusing "Wilder Napalm", the precious "Thin Man" wannabe "Undercover Blues" and the murky but well-acted "Flesh and Bone". The actor literally transformed himself, dropping some 40 pounds to play the tubercular Doc Holliday in Lawrence Kasdan's epic "Wyatt Earp" (1993). While the film failed to find an audience, reviewers singled out Quaid's performance. He was back to speed as the charming ne'er-do-well husband of Julia Roberts in "Something to Talk About" (1995) and brought a level of surprising believability to his turn as a medieval knight in "Dragonheart" (1996). Quaid continued in more family fare, co-starring with Natasha Richardson in the 1998 remake of Disney's "The Parent Trap".
After offering a stellar performance as a mercenary in the little-seen "Savior" (1998), Quaid turned in a fine performance as an aging quarterback in the Oliver Stone-directed "Any Given Sunday" (1999). He followed with a turn as a firefighter who is able to communicate across time with his grown son (James Caviezel) in the fantasy "Frequency" and then was cast as a slippery lawyer advising the wife of a drug lord in "Traffic" (both 2000).
After starring in the critically acclaimed television film "Dinner With Friends," Quaid returned to the big screen in the surprise hit film "The Rookie" (2002). He starred in the true story of a middle-aged high school baseball coach who tries out for the Major Leagues and becomes the league's oldest rookie. He next appeared with Julianne Moore in the intense drama "Far From Heaven" (2002). Set in Connecticut the 1950s, the film explored the tensions within marriages during that time and the racial issues of the day, and Quaid was pitch-perfect in a fearless performance as a family man who is secretly homosexual, a secret which makes him neglectful, abusive and alcoholic. Universally praised for his tragic, tormented turn, Quaid--who has survived the tabloid headlines surrounding his marital break-up to deliver both a hit film and a powerful performance--was suddenly a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood again.
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