Few actors have had as versatile a career, or have matured as well, as Dennis Quaid. Born in Houston in 1954, he rose to stardom in the 1980s with roles as diverse as a real-life astronaut (The Right Stuff), a New Orleans homicide detective (The Big Easy), a test pilot who is miniaturized and injected into Martin Short's body (Innerspace), an aging football jock (Everybody's All-American), and of course Jerry Lee Lewis (Great Balls of Fire!).
Quaid's star faded in the early 1990s, but in recent years he has earned praise for his work in movies as diverse as the time-bending sci-fi flick Frequency, the political drama Traffic, the real-life sports story The Rookie, and the independent film Far from Heaven, in which he played a closeted gay man married to Julianne Moore.
Now he is dabbling in physical comedy and family films. Yours, Mine & Ours, which opens this week, is a remake of a 1968 film and based on the true story of a widow (played here by Rene Russo) with eight children who married a widower (Quaid) with ten children. Quaid himself has a 13-year-old son, Jack, from his marriage to Meg Ryan, which ended in divorce four years ago. He has since married a woman who, like him, grew up Baptist in Texas.
Quaid spoke to Christianity Today Movies in Los Angeles—first in a private interview, then at a roundtable with several other reporters. The following is an edited transcript from both of those conversations.
You've had an incredibly versatile career, ranging from jock roles to roles with more of a fantasy, sci-fi appeal, and you've also worked in more straightforward dramas. Have you made a point of working in all these various niches?
Dennis Quaid: I've always liked variety. I think actors sometimes pigeonhole themselves and typecast themselves, and I've always just found it interesting to do as many different types of genres and movies as I can. I really don't have any kind of grand strategy, other than show me a good script.
Recently you've been working a fair bit in the family genre—The Parent Trap, The Rookie, and now this.
Quaid: But there was also Far from Heaven, which was very different, and I just finished a film called American Dreamz, which is definitely more of an adult film. But I'm also at that age where you're playing the dad, and it seems like kind of a natural thing for me, I guess.
Are you looking for dad roles?
Quaid: No, they just seem to find me. What I liked about Yours, Mine & Ours is that it seemed to be a romantic comedy at the same time. It's a romantic comedy with 18 kids, so it's kind of a family film and a romantic comedy put together. I think this has something for everybody, parents as well.
Is it hard to play the stern father while also playing the husband who has what you might call a sexy romance with his wife?
Quaid: Well, with Rene Russo, it wasn't so difficult. (laughs) I've always been a secret admirer of hers. She's a really great lady and comedienne.
Your character believes in spanking children. Do you?
Quaid: I'm not really a believer in spanking kids. I just think it teaches them to hit people as a way of solving things. When I grew up, I think I got a couple of half-hearted spankings. My dad was not really a disciplinarian. I never had to do it with my son. I think the only thing I did was I swatted his hand when he touched the stove one time, just because it scared me—and he never did it again! (laughs)
Do you think big families are becoming more popular again?
Quaid: Some people may see this movie and say, "I'm definitely using birth control!" It might be a warning. I only have one child, but I kind of like the commotion of a lot of kids. But if you're going to have a lot of kids, you need lots of help. Back in the olden days, you used to have extended families, with grandparents that lived in the same house, so you had lots of help. And the older ones have got to help out with the younger ones.