VetFamily: Dennis Quaid

Dennis Quaid Navy Blue Angels

Actor Dennis Quaid has appeared in dozens of movies, including “The Right Stuff,” “The Parent Trap,” “Breaking Away,” and “The Rookie,” among others. Among his many awards, he received the New York Film Credits Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Far from Heaven.” Throughout Quaid’s star studded career, his World War II veteran father motivated and inspired him.

Dennis’s father, Buddy Quaid, served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. He was a “song and dance man” who may have had his own big break in show business, if the war hadn’t intervened. Buddy was also a cousin of country legend Gene Autry. 

Growing up in Houston, Dennis Quaid said life with his father was planting the seeds for growth in show business. “He’d walk around the house singing like Dean Martin,” Quaid tells Men’s Journal. “Bing Crosby was his Elvis.” 

As Dennis tells the story, his dad was on leave from the Merchant Marines in San Francisco, where he met two movie-studio men who were so impressed with him, they asked him to do a screen test in Los Angeles.

But, as Dennis told the Wall Street Journal, “Dad was shipping out the next day and couldn’t make the screen test. He always regretted not doing that screen test,” 

Dennis, born in 1954, followed his older brother Randy to Hollywood, eventually landing a role in 1979’s “Breaking Away,” a coming of age movie about competitive cycling that won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Picture.
 
In his 1988 movie, “Everybody’s All-American,” the Frank DeFord novel about an aging football star, Quaid modelled his character after his father, who had died a year-and-a-half before the movie. “Not long before I had to shoot the part where I was going to mimic him, I was driving my car coming around a corner and all of a sudden, I felt his spirit, like he came back inside me,” he told the New York Times.

“I did all the outside things about him and got to what he felt like on the inside. What was that? Well, that's my business. But you know what, the way I look at it, he finally got his screen test.''

Uniquely, Dennis Quaid’s many military roles include:

 

  • Yours, Mine and Ours: He played a widowed U.S. Coast Guard Admiral 
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: He played Army General Hawk
  • The Right Stuff: He played Air Force pilot turned Mercury & Gemini astronaut Gordon Cooper
  • Innerspace: He played Navy aviator Tuck Pendleton

Dennis Quaid was blown away by his role in “The Right Stuff.” "I met Gordon Cooper in preparing for the role, and he got me on low-level jets. We were 400 miles per hour, 50 feet above the deck. You take eight G's and see what that feels like," he told the Washington Post. As a result of his role in the film, Quaid decided to become a pilot himself.

In addition to staying active in acting, he loves working out, plays the guitar and still tours with his band, Dennis Quaid & The Sharks. He’s on tour in Tennessee later this month and Texas in October.

His current project involves playing former President Ronald Reagan in an upcoming 2019 biopic.

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