A man's man

Sexy leading man Dennis Quaid talks about surviving drama club, what went wrong with Meg, and playing a married gay man in Todd Haynes’s acclaimed new film, Far From Heaven

BY Alonso Duralde

October 14 2002 11:00 PM ET

There’s also the interesting racial aspect to the
film. Growing up in Texas, was that a big issue?
Oh, yeah. I remember all the riots on television all the
time, all the buildup going on in ’68, and
everything being burned down after King died. There
was a lot of tension in the air. But I grew up with a black
housekeeper who was really like my second mom ’cause
my mom worked. So for me, it was never an issue. I
couldn’t understand why everybody
couldn’t get along. When people are afraid of
something else is when they really start attacking
gays and blacks, because they’re afraid. Afraid in
their ignorance.

So you moved to Los Angeles in 1975 and started working
pretty quickly—Breaking Away was in 1979?

Yeah, the first thing I did was with Jim

Right, September 30, 1955.

He gave me my first break. He died about six
years ago—six or seven years ago, something
like that.

Jack [Larson, Bridges’s partner] is still around.
Yeah, Jack’s still around. That was
another sort of obvious in-the-closet relationship.

Really? I always figured they were wide-open.
In some ways, I kind of felt—no, it
wasn’t. There was some protection around them.

Did the fact that this movie had to do with the
destructive nature of gossip attract you after
your very public split with Meg Ryan?

It didn’t really have anything to do with
me taking the movie or whatever. But I certainly went
through a lot the last couple of years. It’s
over now, but it really was not fun when it was happening.
You know, to let your marriage fall apart in front of

Were people going through your garbage?
Yeah, I had people—I mean, I heard a door shut
outside the gate, a car door, and I’d go out to
check on it. And it’d be a van, and in the back
of the van there’d be a camera set up with a curtain
over it. I could see listening equipment—police
scanners, cell phone scanners. I felt like, Is my
house being bugged too? During our whole marriage
we’d never had any problems; there was nothing
to write about. So I counted myself lucky.

I’m wondering if two divorces [Quaid’s
first wife was actor P.J. Soles] makes you
hesitant to date any more actresses.

No, not really. I mean, I’m with somebody
right now who’s not an actress. But, no,
I’m an actor myself. I don’t know about
marrying another actor, because it’s the whole
thing of being separated all the time. Especially when
you start having kids, even when one stays at home.
You’re never together, and to me, that’s
the real reason our marriage disintegrated, because of
not enough time spent together. We were better parents than
we were married.

So here’s
what a lot of Advocate readers probably want to
know—what’s your workout? I work
out? [Laughs] I started doing pull-ups when I was 17
years old. And because I’ve got the stomach for
it, I was boxing for about 10, 15 years as a way of
working out. And now I do yoga and run. Lately I
haven’t been doing that. With the abs, the key is not
to lose them, ’cause once you lose them
they’re really hard to get back.

If an actor you knew was queer told you,
“I’m thinking about coming
out,” would you say “Great” or
“Think about it” or…?
I would say “Great.” Because I think
it’s more important for a person to be happy
first. The reason we do our careers or whatever is because
we should proceed at what we are happiest doing. If we
can’t be happy as people first, we
aren’t going to be happy in anything else, and part
of that is denying who we really are. To be able to
live as who you are—and in spite of
it—that’s the only way you’re really
going to have any kind of happiness in this world. And
peace with yourself, you know what I mean?

Tags: Commentary