Interview: Dennis Quaid

By SANDY MCLEAN  |  Sept. 9, 2002 at 11:34 AM
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TORONTO, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Getting into character for his latest screen endeavor of a married, closeted homosexual in the 1950s in "Far From Heaven" wasn't difficult says actor Dennis Quaid, not even the kiss scene with his on screen lover.

"It's all love," shrugs the boyishly charming Quaid in Toronto to promote the North American premiere of "Far From Heaven" at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Besides, he knows what it's like to have troubles and feel you're not being true to yourself even if he can't identify with the homosexual aspect of the character.

"We all have our secrets and feel we're not living an authentic life from time to time and, although the character is gay, I can relate to what he's going through," says a tired but relaxed Quaid in between pulls on his cigarette during an interview.

At 48-years-old, the former husband of actor Meg Ryan still exudes a mix of rough around the edges, innocence, and devilish charm.

"I have a few friends who've been in the same situation, got married, had kids and came to grips with their sexuality," says Quaid.

It was these friends Quaid used as a resource when preparing for his role as Frank Whitaker, head of the local branch of the Magnatech TV sales company, opposite actor Julianne Moore, in this latest Todd Haynes' directed film.

Moore plays Cathy Whitaker, the perfect housewife who develops a relationship with her black gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) to the horror of the town's gossipmongers, while her husband Frank is grappling with his homosexuality.

Mimicking the 1950s style of domestic melodramatic movie making particularly that of director Douglas Sirk ("All that Heaven Allows"), "Far From Heaven" not only explores the theme of homosexuality, but that of racial prejudice within a well-to-do suburban home during the post-World War II era.

"I think by setting it in the '50s, made it more relevant to today," says Quaid. "If it was done in a '90s way I don't think the film would have had as much impact as it does."

He believes this role deviates from the characters he usually plays - the all American guy -- as this time it's an all American guy with a twist, a dark secret.

"It's a very interesting story," says Quaid.

It was the director that drew Quaid to the film. After seeing Haynes' previous film "Goldmine," Quaid knew he wanted to work with him.

"I pretty much said yes before I read the script," he says. "I knew it was going to be something special. I thought the part was something completely different. I'm glad he offered me the part."

A seasoned actor with over 25 films to his credit, including "The Rookie," "Traffic," "Frequency," and "Any Given Sunday," Quaid has accomplished his goal of being a working actor having grown up watching stars like Marlon Brando, James Dean and Alec Guinness.

He feels lucky even if being a celebrity was tough to handle at first.

"It was confusing to me and I felt why are these people so interested in me. I've grown used to it and I've accepted what I do as a public thing," he says. "For me it was all about acting, not fame or even money. I just wanted to be a working actor."

Acting runs in the family. His father was a frustrated actor and his grandfather was a Vaudeville actor and of course then there's his big brother, Randy Quaid.

"I still have my original love for acting," says Quaid. "That's why I feel so lucky. I think that's what sustains me in the sort of leaner times."

Quaid is already working on his next film, "Cold Creek Manor" with director Mike Figgis. Quaid is visibly tired, but he's not complaining, the endless interviews are just part of his job and the cigarettes and Cokes are a help in the hot room as his handlers shuffle him to another interview.

"Far From Heaven" is due for release on Nov. 8.

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