He gave memorable performances in “Breaking Away,” “The Right Stuff” and “The Rookie.”
Now, Dennis Quaid reflects on his career in the new weekly podcast, “The Dennissance.”
“‘The Dennissance’ is my lucky life I’ve had as an actor,” Quaid told WTOP. “My favorite part of doing movies is research. … Finding out what makes these people tick and trying to capture their essence. I’ve taken that and brought it to a podcast in an interview format.”
The two-time Golden Globe nominee is able to uniquely relate to his celebrity guests.
“We get to find out about these people that we think we know,” Quaid said. “What makes them tick, what’s behind [their art], what other interests that they have, and find out some stories about them that we didn’t know before and therefore also find out about ourselves.”
The podcast kicked off with country star Billy Ray Cyrus, father of Miley Cyrus and performer of such memorable hits as “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Old Town Road.”
“I’m starting out with people that I know,” Quaid said. “There’s such a depth to him that people don’t know and such a deep spiritual life. … He’s a great family man. It’s really about second chances in his life, which I think is a very interesting story, and he’s had a number of them and he’s engineered them himself and made his own luck in a way.”
He also interviews country star Tanya Tucker of “Delta Dawn” and “Bring My Flowers Now.”
“I’ve known Tanya for 42 years,” Quaid said. “She was actually my very first leading lady in a 1978 television movie of the week called ‘Amateur Night at Dixie Bar & Grill.’ We didn’t see each other for a very long time and ran into each other and became very close friends over the past couple of years and recorded together with Kris Kristofferson recently.”
Which other celebrities does he chat with on the show?
“We have [country star] Loretta Lynn, [TV host] Billy Bush, [country star] John Carter Cash, [baseball star] Albert Pujols,” Quaid said. “I hope to get a lot of politicians and scientists. Bruce Cameron, who wrote ‘A Dog’s Purpose,’ we’re going to talk about the history of dogs, what dogs mean to us and just get off topic rather than just talking about the fluff.”
Born in Houston, Texas, in 1954, Quaid went to the University of Houston specifically to study under acting teacher Cecil Pickett, who had trained his older brother Randy Quaid.
“Before I was in his class at U of H, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in life,” Quaid said. “The first week in his class, he gave me such a gift because I knew what I wanted to do with my life. That is a real gift to have at 19 years old because he had made acting interesting because it was about what makes people tick, kinda like being a psychologist.”
Upon moving to Los Angeles, Quaid got his first acting job about a year later to the day.
His first great role came in “Breaking Away” (1979) as part of the cycling team The Cutters.
“It really does hold up,” Quaid said. “My fiancee Laura had never seen it before, so we watched it a couple of months ago and I was really surprised and really heartened because the story really does hold up. It’s a coming of age story. It’s an underdog movie. There were a lot of youth movies of the ’80s and I think it was pretty much the first one.”
His masterpiece remains “The Right Stuff” (1983), playing Gordon Cooper alongside Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard and Ed Harris as John Glenn.
“It was an amazing group of guys and they were all on set,” Quaid said. “Chuck Yeager himself, the man who broke the sound barrier, he was on set every day. You’re just living with these walking, talking American heroes around. I went flying with Chuck Yeager!”
For a guy raised in Houston idolizing astronauts, it was a boyhood dream come true.
“I wanted to be an astronaut when they rolled in the TV in first grade and I watched Alan Shepard go up,” Quaid said. “Everybody wanted to be an astronaut. My favorite astronaut at the time of the original seven was Gordo Cooper, and I wound up getting to play him.”
He stayed in touch with Cooper, who lived just three miles from him in Los Angeles.
“We got to be really good friends,” Quaid said. “He suggested that I get flying lessons. I was afraid to fly at that time, but I wound up going over and getting my pilot’s license eventually and I fly jets now. That movie really changed my life. It’s my favorite movie.”
A new generation discovered Quaid in the inspiring baseball biopic “The Rookie” (2002).
“When I did ‘The Rookie’ about Jimmy Morris, his story was a story of second chances, and that movie at the time I was doing it, reflected my own life and career,” Quaid said.
Fittingly, Quaid will interview Morris in an upcoming episode of “The Dennissance,” which marks an unexpected turn of events for a host that didn’t know anything about podcasts.
“Two years ago, I myself had never listened to a podcast,” Quaid said. “My friend and partner Jared Gutstadt … asked me to do this podcast called ‘Bear and a Banjo,‘ which was the first podcast to ever launch a record. We did it with T-Bone Burnett, Bob Dylan contributed the lyrics, and Poo Bear, who wrote just about every Justin Bieber song.”
The show’s success inspired him to launch his own podcast platform, Audio Up.
“We have a show called ‘Make It Up As We Go,’ another concept album about a real girl, Scarlett Berg, who goes to Nashville to become a songwriter,” Quaid said. “We have another show called ‘Uncle Drank.’ He is a fictional country music legend, who puts very interesting revisionist lyrics to songs, a little like ‘Beavis and Butthead’ or ‘South Park.'”
Still, “The Dennissance” could very well become the platform’s most popular program.
“‘The Dennissance’ has arrived,” Quaid said.