Quaid Back In the Coogs' House
Dennis Quaid was getting in touch with his Bayou City roots on Friday, visiting drama students and chatting with reporters on his old stomping grounds at the University of Houston.
Making his way across the United States to promote his new film At Any Price (which co-stars Zac Efron), the Vegas star stopped by his hometown to receive UH's prestigious President’s Medallion for his decades of creative contribution and charity work in Austin, New Orleans and Central America.
The recognition comes just one year after the University of Houston presented Quaid with an honorary doctorate.
Before the ceremonies, CultureMap had a chance to sit down with the Golden Globe-nominated actor for a quick conversation about Houston, Hollywood and his college days.
"I was in Mr. Pickett's acting class. He was very real — brutally real — and he'd inspire me. He'd say, 'Go out and watch people; that's how you learn.' It got me into being fascinated with what made other people tick and what it was like being in their shoes. He also taught me the craft of how to get there. Those times in class are the main thing I remember."
"I remember doing a scene for Mr. Pickett and the first words out of his mouth were, 'Of course, you know that you failed miserably. ' "
Quaid explained the class offered a space in which he could learn from his mistakes — an opportunity he'd find would be in short supply in Hollywood, where his brother Randy was making waves with an Oscar-nominated role next to Jack Nicholson in 1973's The Last Detail.
"I remember doing a scene for Mr. Pickett and the first words out of his mouth were, 'Of course, you know that you failed miserably'," Quaid said. "University drama is a great place to fail and get back on your feet."
After critically-acclaimed performances in Breaking Away and The Right Stuff, Quaid found himself with steady film work playing everything from a cowboy to doctor to an aviator who gets "miniaturized" and injected into Martin Short in Innerspace, a film he said people (myself included) ask him about no matter where his is in the world.
"One of the great things about being an actor is the research involved. I've driven around with the cops in New Orleans on the midnight shift. I've been in the cockpit with Chuck Yeager. Even though I'm from Texas, I really learned how to ride a horse in the movies."
For Quaid, returning to Houston, which had a population of less than a million during his childhood, is always a rather surreal trip.
"It's hard to recognize. The landmarks are gone but the streets still flood," he joked, noting Friday's sudden torrential rains. "The first house I grew up in was knocked down a couple years ago to make room for the mansion-izing that's going on in Bellaire . . .
"It's still a great town for families and a great town to grow up in, no matter where you end up."