Dennis Quaid on Discovering Acting and His Early Career

“I discovered that acting was really a study of human behavior; what made people tick. And that fascinated me, and still fascinates me.” – Dennis Quaid

Dennis Quaid has had the type of journeyman acting career that most film and television actors would dream of. Though Quaid hasn’t had a franchise or career-defining role like many of his contemporaries, Quaid has starred in a long list of hits of all sizes, from 1979’s Breaking Away to 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow. In an interview with The Guardian, Quaid reflected on what drew him to acting in the first place and on his longevity in an industry where a long career is uncommon.

While attending the University of Houston, he took an acting class taught by Cecil Pickett, a long-time acting teacher at the school. Quaid remembers, “He taught acting as a craft, and, within the first week, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. With him, I discovered that acting was really a study of human behavior; what made people tick. And that fascinated me, and still fascinates me.”

Despite getting bitten by the acting bug, Quaid knew being an actor professionally was an uphill battle. He explains, “Was I totally confident? No. But I had resolve that it was going to work for me. I worked in jobs in Houston – I was a clown at an amusement park, I was a waiter, I worked construction. [In Los Angeles] I was determined not to work again except as an actor. I was lucky because I know a lot of people who were very talented who did not have luck.”

Though there is a long list of roles that Quaid was almost cast in — Backdraft, An Officer and a Gentleman, Batman Begins, and Rain Man are often cited as examples — Quaid doesn’t spend time any more on reflecting over the roles he could’ve had. He explains, “Now I can’t be anything but grateful for the career I’ve had. I’ve had a very lucky career. I’m still here. Who knows what would have happened if … you know … there’s no way to tell. It could have gone better or worse.”