Dennis Quaid on blowing his movie career right up his nose

Newsweek has a new feature called “My Favorite Mistake” with first person accounts of semi-confessional “mistakes” by celebrities and public figures. I’ve found other pieces by Ted Danson, Harvey Weinstein, and James Carville detailing their mistakes and in the latest issue Dennis Quaid reveals his “greatest,” not necessarily his “favorite” mistake, a cocaine addiction that helped fell his career at the peak of his popularity in the late 80s. Quaid stars in the new film about the true story of a young surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack, Soul Surfer. It came out in theaters last Friday. Here’s some of Quaid’s story:

On how cocaine was everywhere in the 80s
My greatest mistake was being addicted to cocaine. I started after I left college and came to Los Angeles in 1974. It was very casual at first. That’s what people were doing when they were at parties. Cocaine was even in the budgets of movies, thinly disguised. It was petty cash, you know? It was supplied, basically, on movie sets because everyone was doing it. People would make deals. Instead of having a cocktail, you’d have a line. So it was insidious, the way it snuck up on everybody.

On his routine as a cocaine addict
By the time I was doing The Big Easy, in the late 1980s, I was a mess. I was getting an hour of sleep a night. I had a reputation for being a “bad boy,” which seemed like a good thing, but basically I just had my head stuck up my ass. I’d wake up, snort a line, and swear I wasn’t going to do it again that day. But then 4 o’clock rolled around, and I’d be right back down the same road like a little squirrel on one of those treadmills. The lack of sleep made it so my focus wasn’t really there, which affected my acting. Addiction just keeps you from living; you’re basically hiding from life.

On what he learned from rehab
I had a band then, called the Eclectics. One night we played a show at the China Club in L.A., and the band broke up, just like in the movie The Commitments, because it all got too crazy. I had one of those white-light experiences that night where I kind of realized I was going to be dead in five years if I didn’t change my ways. The next day I was in rehab.

It was one of those times when you think, “Well, if I do the right thing and clean up my life, it’ll get better.” No, it got worse! In 1990 I did Wilder Napalm, which came out and went down the tubes. But that time in my life—those years in the ’90s recovering—actually chiseled me into a person. It gave me the resolve and a resilience to persevere in life. If I hadn’t gone through that period, I don’t know if I’d still be acting. In the end, it taught me humility. I really learned to appreciate what I have in this life.

[From Newsweek]

The last I heard about Quaid he was helping raise awareness of fatal medical mistakes after his newborn twins nearly died in November, 2007 when a nurse gave them an overdose of Heparin from a poorly labeled bottle. (Here’s more background on that incident and the measures that Quaid took as a result. He successfully sued the hospital and is currently suing the manufacturer of the drug.) Quaids twins are well and thriving at three and a half, although it was touch and go with them for a while.

That movie the Quaid says was his sort-of first “sober” film, Wilder Napalm, came out in 1993 according to IMDB and he has no credits listed to his name from 1990 – 1993. He’s worked steadily since but not in many high profile films and not in many movies that I’ve seen. Like I remember him in The Big Easy (1986), Great Balls of Fire (1989), Far From Heaven (2002) and In Good Company (2004). I’ve probably seen some of his other movies in his recent career but they didn’t stay with me. So he’s not the big movie star he was in the late 80s when he was staying up all night doing blow, but would he have inevitably fallen from grace anyway? He’s probably asked himself that question countless times.

You also wonder if any producers are sweating it after Quaid’s claims that cocaine was everywhere on set. Were they all doing lines on the set of The Right Stuff (1983)? Probably.

He may be back on track now but he’s not sober. I’ve seen plenty of photos and video of him out partying recently.

Dennis Quaid is shown performing with his band on 11/4/10. He’s shown in the header with his wife on 5/19/10. Credit:




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26 Responses to “Dennis Quaid on blowing his movie career right up his nose”

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  1. Zelda says:

    About 3 years ago he was in the city I lived in and a close friend was working with/for his people.
    According to her he looked insanely old up close, was incoherently drunk, and leered at and propositioned pretty much every woman under the age of 30 he came across.
    Quite pathetic in person, she said.

  2. Lynda says:

    Nothing could be sexieer than he was in the Big Easy. He could get back there m/b

  3. EdithP says:

    My friend met him while he was making Great Balls of Fire and said he smelled. He leered at her and she asked him if he ever considered showering.

    I think he is very hot, though — I am a bit ashamed.

  4. N.D. says:

    @Zelda Well, he is sort of old, isn’t he? Late 50s I guess?

    Funny how he doesn’t mention Mag while talking about addiciton/rehab. At the time he credited her as his main inspiration for going to rehab because she refused to marry him otherwise or something like it.

  5. Ethel says:

    Maybe it runs in the family. That would explain a lot about why Randy acts like he’s one brick short of a full load.

  6. Zelda says:

    @ Edith P:
    Oh that’s right! My friend also said he smelled. Not like a drunk smells–like a homeless person without access to a shower smells.

  7. flourpot says:

    Oh yeah, ummm, you know how some guys are so unbelievably sexy when they’re hot and sweaty? Umm.. yeah, not this one.

  8. Chris says:

    He was pretty good in Traffic and Any Given Sunday.

  9. lucy2 says:

    Those are some horrifically bad photos!
    Kind of sounds like he traded one addiction for another, if the drinking happens often.
    He’s worked pretty steadily since his recovery time, so he’s lucky that turned around for him. Hope he doesn’t mess it up again, esp. not with little kids.

  10. EdithP says:

    @Zelda — yes, he was B.O. Plenty!

  11. Stephy2585 says:

    I say it was the combination of Jaws 3 and Vantage Point that truly destroyed his career.

  12. curmudgeon says:

    Rumor around the great 90210 was that his wife was looking for an assistant to help run the household and she could NOT be a pretty young girl. Nice guy supposedly who cannot keep his pants on.

  13. wow so he was a star back in the day, heh?

  14. JQ says:

    I’m not sure about his sobriety now, but his quote: “Addiction just keeps you from living; you’re basically hiding from life,” is so dead on. That sums it up perfectly for me.

  15. Sigh. says:

    I think he’s supposed to be a little league soccer coach in GButt-tickler’s “Playing The Field,” so let’s hope that IF he’s still partying, he can pull it together (and bathe?) before he gets on set around the kids. O_o

  16. mln76 says:

    Notice he didn’t have a word to say about his crazy brother (LOL)… I love how Meg Ryan always gets the blame for cheating but he was a drug addict for years and obviously played around on her.

  17. Lantana says:

    When Ellen plants the thing in Dennis Q’s ear to tell him what he’s supposed to say, his delivery is comic genius. If that is him straight, he needs to stay straight!

  18. Ally says:

    I love him in ‘Innerspace’ and ‘Something to Talk About’… both have him at his rakish best.

  19. Kristin says:

    Wasn’t he in the Parent Trap remake with Linnocent?

    (probably, but I never pass up a chance to slam Linnocent)

  20. jc126 says:

    I always thought Meg Ryan got unfairly blasted in their marriage split; I suspect Quaid was a cheat and an addict, and cheated long before she did. I can’t stand Meg Ryan, either, ftr. She said a few years ago that Dennis had not been faithful to her for a “long time”.

  21. Twez says:

    I was an undergrad at LSU when he was there filming “Everybody’s All American.” His misbehavior was *legendary*.

  22. Jeri says:

    He cheated but was not as open as Meg with Russell Crowe, I think she thought she’d be w/Russell forever so she didn’t care how public she was.

    Big mistake.

  23. Rhiley says:

    I didn’t know until this weekend that Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid are brothers. I don’t know how I missed that one.Evidentally, Randy Quaid (who I kind of love no matter how crazy he is because of his Cousin Eddie role in National Lampoons)said all of Dennis Quaid’s movies are now crap and he does them for the dollar and not the passion, to which Dennis responded, “I love my brother.” Dennis Quaid kind of does a good job of keeping his personal life quiet.

  24. Lisa says:

    I always loved Dennis Quaid and thought he was sexy and HOT. He was good in The Parent Trap re-make; I always liked that version much better than the original.

  25. Chessie says:

    @lantana Yes, he is always dead-on with his comic delivery on those spots with Ellen. They’re a riot!

  26. harfang says:

    Eh, re: those photos, many people can drink and party and still be generally in control of their lives, even if they’re in recovery from a physical addiction to a different kind of substance, such as a narcotic. I live in Minneapolis, where Hazelden is based; it was them that made 12-step programs and total-sobriety-or-failure thinking the norm. But many studies now are showing that it’s not always that simple.

    I have always enjoyed Dennis’ acting a lot. He’s a class act and a good guy. I feel bad for him having to deal with that Randy and Evi thing.