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September 23, 1987 - Image 62

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-09-23

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'The Big
Does It
A gritty role makes
Dennis Quaid a star
Forget"The Right Stuff" forasecond
and Dennis Quaid's funny, sexy
turn as flying ace Gordo Cooper.
Forget this summer's "Innerspace"
and Quaid's dashing performance
as a micronaut injected into Martin Short's
GI tract. Forget even "The Big Easy," on
screen right now, in which he gives the
performance of his life as a New Orleans
police detective who can ladle on the Cajun
charm as thick as roux. Dennis Quaid wants
to talk about "Jaws 3D." "It's the worst
thing I've ever done," he says. "And it
changed my life."
Down in the dumps after the shark epic
was released in 1983-"This sequel is even
stupider than the last one," one critic
wrote-Quaid stopped to look around. He
saw a dream house in Montana and all his
hopes mortgaged to pay for it. "I asked
myself, 'Why am I an actor?' I'd finish a job
and be broke and still have to support the
house." What to do? Start over. "I sold the
house, moved to New York and started

Why am I an actor?' A performance that goes beyond his usual roguish demeanor

doing plays again," Quaid recalls, and
things started to happen. An engagement
off-Broadway in Sam Shepard's "True
West" yielded good notices for Dennis and
his brother Randy, who would later put in a
year on "Saturday Night Live." He picked
his next movie part, in "Enemy Mine,"
solely because he loved the script. And
again, he says, "I found out why I wanted
to be an actor-because I really love it."

The charm is as thick as roux: Remy romancing the prosecution (Ellen Barkin)

Now, four summers past "Jaws 3D," that
lesson is paying off. At 33, Quaid is finally
looking like a genuine movie star. His per-
formance in "The Big Easy" is sparked by
the easy charm viewers have come to ex-
pect from the actor: Lt. Remy McSwain
runs on natural grace and a hint of scandal,
the kind of sharpie who is used to getting
anything he wants with a smooth grin and
some sweet talk. But when things go sour in
a drug investigation and Remy has to con-
front his own corruption, Quaid really acts.
In a pivotal scene with costar Ellen Barkin
on a balcony overlooking the Mississippi,
he slowly peels back Remy's flashy outside
to show the hurt and desperation under-
neath. An intriguing resonance animates
the scene: we're used to seeing Quaid play
rogues, guys who slide by. But here is Remy
realizing that he can no longer slide. Can he
change? And can Quaid, who has some-
times seemed to slide by on his own charm
in past parts, pull off that difficult transfor-
mation? Yes to both, resoundingly. The
scene is a stunning marriage of presence
and technique, a real star turn.
It isn't preordained that Remy turns out
to be a good guy. Quaid plays him as part of
a cozy corruption that pervades New Or-
leans like a fog. ("The Big Easy" is yet
another nickname for the Crescent City,


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