Dennis Quaid Interview – VANTAGE POINT

     February 18, 2008

Opening this Friday is the Columbia Pictures’ action-thriller “Vantage Point.” The film is about eight strangers who all witness an assassination attempt on the President of the United States in Spain. But unlike most movies, which tell a story by intercutting all the characters storylines as the film builds towards a big climax, “Vantage Point” tells the story quite differently.

Rather than follow all the storylines at once, the film follows one person’s storyline for the twenty minutes leading up to the assassination attempt. Once we see the shots hit their target, we startagain from another characters perspective. As we watch each segment unfold, new details get revealed. Only after all the characters have told their stories do we finally understand what actually happened.

While some have compared the film to Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”, the fact is they are completely different movies. “Rashomon” used each person’s storyline to show how we all view an event differently, but “Vantage Point” never changes what actually happened, just the perspective of how you see the event unfolding.

Now the reason you’re here, the interview with Dennis Quaid for “Vantage Point.” In the movie, Dennis plays a Secret Service agent who has only recently been put back on active duty. As the movie unfolds, it’s his storyline that intersects the most characters as he desperately tries to figure out what happened.

The frustrating thing about doing an interview for a movie like this is you can only talk about so much or you’ll ruin it. So while most of the journalists would normally ask pretty specific questions about scenes or character moments, most of the time was spent talking about other projects and more personal stuff. Of course we talked about “Vantage Point,” but I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.

Anyway, if you missed the movie clips I previously posted you might want to watch them before reading the interview. You can click here to see them. Finally, here’s the MP3 of the interview in case you’d rather listen to it.

“Vantage Point” gets released this Friday.

Question: So, did you see – this character you were playing, Thomas Barnes, the Secret Service lawyer, do you see him like at all the one that Clint Eastwood played in the Secret Service movie he did where he was the – In the Line of Fire?

Dennis Quaid: Where he said, “I’m getting too old for this?” [LAUGHTER] Well, running – we made a running joke, actually, during this—you know, I’m over 50. And, you know, I was running for the first part of this film, and then in the car. There was so much action. Just, where is the line? You know, we’ve got to have – where are we gonna put the line, “I’m getting too old for this shit?”

Question: This isn’t a character-driven movie, it’s such a plot-driven film. As an actor, do you rely on different sorts of acting muscles to convey so little in a short amount of time, with a character, with a guy like this?

Dennis Quaid: Well, really, that’s what, to me, that’s what acting is really about. Is what – you know, the silences between the words, in a way. You know, that’s where you feel it’s about – you know, it’s about feelings, really. That’s what acting is. You know, I go to movies to feel things. And it was really kind of a challenge with this one, especially. Because – I mean, I have 17 lines of dialogue, I think, in this film. I do! [LAUGHTER] Yeah, that’s it. And it’s – you know, most of that is like, “Oh my God, what have you done?” [LAUGHTER] And –

Question: Stop it!

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. Stop! Halt! [LAUGHTER] “Oh my God! Oh my God.” And then I run out of the room. So – it was – so it’s – it was a challenge, you know, to create this character by – you know, because it’s created, really, in the doing. And in the silences of the character.

Question: So that was the attraction, then. That was why you read the – you know, “Let me play this guy.” Doesn’t say anything, but he –

Dennis Quaid: Well, I thought it’d be great. [LAUGHTER] But – you know. And then – Pete, from the original script, added a small scene where I’m in the hotel room – you know, before we go out. And – which I think – you know, really did a lot to sort of inform the character, from the audience.

Question: Where he comes in and says –

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. “It’s time to go, and I’m a little nervous.” You know, “I’m thinking about taking a pill or two.” And – you know. Taking a bullet for the president the year before, this is my first day back on my job. So that really informs – that did a lot to inform the character. So you didn’t really have to – say anything. It was – again, it was done through, just seeing where this guy was in the silences.

Question: You get to do something like Smart People, which has more than 17 lines of dialogue in it.

Dennis Quaid: Yes.

Question: Do you – do you prefer looking for that kind of material? Is that kind of material rare to find?

Dennis Quaid: What kind of material is that? You’re talking about –

Question: Smart sort of comedies, which –

Dennis Quaid: Well, you know, if I’ve done anything intentional about my career, is that I really have not – I’ve chosen to try to do as many different types of things as possible. That’s really what I like to do. And so it makes it interesting for me, and I don’t—so, I don’t even seek out any particular type of movie or role. It’s just that movies at this point seem to – and the roles seem to come. And – rather than me seeking them out.

Question: They just come?

Dennis Quaid: Well, the movies happen to me, rather than me, like, going out there and trying – “Well, I’m gonna play this.” You know, or whatever. Or that I – me deciding that I’m this kind of persona or character or whatever. It makes it more interesting for me to play as many different types of things as possible.

Question: Was The Rookie a changing point in that –

Dennis Quaid: It certainly – you know, the life got good. The life – as far as career choices and stuff, it got a lot better after The Rookie came along. That on top – you know, that with Far From Heaven coming out in the same year really kind of – you know, two different types of movies, types of films. I’m also, you know, past my mid-30s, where – I don’t just have to play the leading man type of guy any more. I can branch out.

Question: I just talked to Dennis Christopher on CSI. And I was wondering, have you all ever talked about doing a Breaking Away, 20 or 30 years later? Has that ever come across the table? Forty?

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. If he can still ride a bike, I’ll do it. [LAUGHTER]

Question: Has it ever been talked about?

Dennis Quaid: Sort of a senior Cutters team out there. Do a little 500.

Question: No, has there ever been anything?

Dennis Quaid: No, there never has. I mean, Steve Tesich – I mean, you know, he’s no longer with us. He wrote that. And just – he’s incredible.

Question: Cuz Haley’s doing great.

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. It was really great to see Jack – Jackie Earle do well last year. And – yeah. It’s a – that was a special time.

Question: Pete said one of the things he likes about you is that you’re sort of this all-American kind of guy, and he thought you were good for the role for that. I was curious if you were aware of that perception of yourself, and if you ever intentionally screw with it in the choices you make.

Dennis Quaid: Well, yeah, I’m aware of it, because that’s what I get told. You know. Just like right now. [LAUGHTER] But – but yeah, I have – I don’t know if I’ve intentionally screwed with it yet or not.

Question: You haven’t tried to play Frenchman?

Dennis Quaid: What?

Question: Have you tried to play a Frenchman?

Dennis Quaid: No, I haven’t tried to play a Frenchman.

Question: Speaking of all-American roles. You were going to be playing –

Dennis Quaid: [FRENCH ACCENT] Speak louder! I cannot hear you.

Question: You’re gonna be playing General Hawk in G.I. Joe.

Dennis Quaid: Yes.

Question: So can you talk a little bit about how you came to that project, and what’s that gonna be all about?

Dennis Quaid: They offered me G.I.—they offered it to me about a month ago, and yeah. I figured it’d be a lot of fun to do.

Question: Why?

Dennis Quaid: Well, because it’s G.I. Joe. You know, we grew up with G.I. Joe. And it’s – you know, it’s basically kind of a cartoon thing, and it’s – you know, it’s a big popcorn type of tent pole action movie that – you know, really doesn’t – it’s not deep. Not really too deep. I mean, the character – the character of General Hawk that I’m playing is really kind of a cross between Chuck Yeager and Sergeant Rock and maybe naïve Hugh Hefner thrown in there. General Hawk’s aide to camp is a Victoria‘s Secret supermodel. So. I mean, how serious can it be? [LAUGHTER]

Question: A lot of people are wondering, though, that with the material, it’s gonna be an action film, but how are you gonna do the bloodless action? Is this a rated-R movie? There’s been a lot of questions from fans about how the material –

Dennis Quaid: I don’t know. How do they do Spider-Man – you know, without blood? Basically. You know, it’s – kind of the same deal. Gah! [LAUGHTER] Ah! Yeah.

Question: When you say you haven’t screwed with your all-American man thing yet, does that mean, like, you’re looking at – is there a time in your career that you envision as your own – being an idol of cinema or something?

Dennis Quaid: I’m an idol of cinema? Oh, wow. Thanks! [LAUGHTER] Appreciate that.

Question: Do you still feel like a sex symbol?

Dennis Quaid: Sex symbol? I – I don’t have a vision. I just go along, really, basically just probably having more fun with my career than I’ve ever had. Cuz it’s – you know, you go through different stages in your life, and in your career. And – you know, and the 20s and 30s, we’re all taking yourself – especially in the 20s, taking ourselves so seriously. Especially men, you know, about this whole career-building thing, and whatever. And – you know, and I just feel now that I’ve been doing it – I’m doing it really for the same reasons that I started out, like, in acting school back in college. Because I really love to do it, and I’m having fun with it. And I like to do as many different types of things as possible. I mean, it’s not a real job, for God’s sakes. You know? It’s just really wonderful, if you can avoid that.

Question: Do you take it less seriously now?

Dennis Quaid: I – yeah. And I enjoy it more. You know, I think I – I think I’m better at it than I used to be, you know? Certainly you would hope that, you know? If you’re a plumber, you learn little tricks as you go along that makes you a better plumber.

Question: Isn’t it true, though, that you did screw with your image in American Dream?

Dennis Quaid: Yeah, I guess so a little bit. Yeah. That guy was kind of a spoof – it was kind of a spoof on itself.

Question: I guess people were expecting you to be the all-American guy to come in and be something, and then you did this other thing.

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. It was kind of a spoof on itself.

Question: But it was a comedy.

Dennis Quaid: Yeah, it was a comedy. Yeah. It was intended to be satirical. Kind of a parody, really, I guess you would call it.

Question: What’s happened with your brother this week, with this announcement that he’s been banned for life with…

Dennis Quaid: I really don’t have any kind of comment on it, to tell you the truth. Yeah. I heard about it the other day and was very surprised to hear about it, myself. So, I mean, I really have no comment on it, about it at all. So.

Question: Can I ask you about The Horsemen? When is that coming out, and how was that, shooting?

Dennis Quaid: Horsemen—I don’t know when it’s coming out. But – I did these four movies, actually, back to back last year. I’ve never done it before. That many movies, like, really in a row. I had two months off cumulatively over the entire year. I don’t know if I’d ever want to do it again. But it was just, there were these four films that were very different and very interesting that came along. And the first one was Vantage Point, and I went right from that to Smart People, and pretty much I – you know, had a nice Christmas week, and then right into Horsemen up in Winnipeg. And that’s really a horror movie with heart, it’s really what I call it. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, it’s a horror movie with heart. And I play a cop who’s really a tooth detective. You know, one of these guys who’s a detective, who specializes in – you know, in tooth impressions, and things like that. And these teeth are found out in a pond, and they’ve got to be connected to a body somewhere. Either, or they’re extracted while he was alive. And these murders start happening that are very ritualistic and apocalyptic, sort of based on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And so – I’m trying to find out who it is. It’s – yeah.

Question: So it’s frigid. Extremely cold.

Dennis Quaid: Oh, it was very, very cold. Yeah. I was in Winnipeg in February. Last February, anybody in Winnipeg? It’s – yeah. Forty below. I mean, I’ve got a place in Montana. I’ve been there when it’s, like, 50 below. But. To work – I’ve never worked in it. It’s something else. Ever – you know, Fahrenheit and Centigrade come together there, you know?

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Question: You’re also in a movie called The Express.

Dennis Quaid: Yeah, I did that right after Horsemen. Went right from that set to the haircut for that one. And that was – that’s the Bernie Davis story, basically. He was the first black athlete to win the Heisman trophy, back in – it was ’60, ’61.

Question: USC?

Dennis Quaid: No, he was Syracuse. Syracuse. I play his coach, Schwartzwalder. Legendary coach back then. And – it’s a sports movie, which is – you know, I like sports movies that are – the ones that work are really not about sports. They’re about something that transcends sports. This movie is really – it’s about – it has a lot to do about race, and about living – you know, grace. Grace. Living one’s life gracefully. Living and dying gracefully.

Question: Dennis, has the freedom of your career choice and how much work you’re doing changed now that you’re the father of two young babies? And how is everything going?

Dennis Quaid: No, my career’s – my choices really haven’t changed. It’s not gonna change my choices at all. It didn’t with my last son, so. [LAUGHTER] With my first change, it didn’t change my choices. But, you know, just been sleep-deprived. I haven’t worked since June. So, took time off because we were – you know, we were pregnant. And also I had just done four movies in a row and I wanted to take some time off. So I haven’t worked since then. Next week, when I start G.I. Joe will be the first since last June.

Question: How is everyone?

Dennis Quaid: Everyone’s doing great. The kids are fantastic, and really healthy. And happy kids. Last night was the first night they slept all the way through the night. From seven to 5:30.

Question: You mentioned that last year was the first year that you’d ever worked that hard. What was behind the decision to take on four films in one year?

Dennis Quaid: It just happened to kind of be a perfect storm of these different films that came along at that time. And just – I just wanted to – I wanted to do it. So.

Question: Does your older son like being a brother now?

Dennis Quaid: Oh, he’s doing great. Yeah.

Question: Does he like them? How old is he?

Dennis Quaid: He’s, like, 15. Six-one, passed me, like, last – two weeks ago he actually passed me. So.

Question: Does he want to go into the business?

Dennis Quaid: Yeah, he’s gonna be an actor. He’s definitely gonna be an actor. I guarantee it. He’s – he’s good – he’s at Crossroads, in the drama department there, and very serious about what he’s doing, which is great. You know, he’s not gonna do it professionally until he’s 18, whatever. I guess, at least. At least not on my watch. You know. He’s doing it the right way. He’s really kind of really trying to learn the craft, instead of – which I see a lot, with a lot of actors that are coming up now. Everybody just wants to be famous first, and then maybe learn how to act.

Question: Do you look back at when you – you know, now that you’ve got your son sort of ready to do this kind of thing, when you – do you think it was harder when you started? Or is it easier now, because there is so much emphasis on celebrity? It’s like, a different world?

Dennis Quaid: I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to really be starting out now. I prefer, like, the times that I started in. Which was – it was very exciting, the times that I started in. You know, I’m not – I’m sure it’s – you know, from their point of view, it’s just as exciting now, that’s all they know. But when I was starting out, it was like – you know, cutting my teeth on movies from the ’70s. And it was a very kind of exciting time, where you felt like the inmates had taken over the asylum, as far as the types of films that were being done in a mainstream way. And the way American cinema was being shaped. And it was great to be a part of that.

Question: Do you miss that Hollywood?

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. I do. And – you know, even though – even back then, when they were doing movies like Badlands or – you know, Bonnie and Clyde or Five Easy Pieces, or – they also had movies – you know, they still had, like, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno, and – you know, all the Burt Reynolds chase – yeah. So it’s – it’s a little distorted. We – it’s selective memory, in a way. But, you know, I think that tradition is actually being carried over today. I kind of feel like there’s this sea change that has happened in the last – especially in the last five or six years, where independent films have really taken over that – most of the films that are nominated are these small independent movies from, like, Miramax, or wherever, that really remind me of the ’70s. Well, you know, No Country for Old Men is very much a ’70s movie. You know, There Will Be Blood. These are films that remind me of that kind of filmmaking. And they’re not structured. There’s no real sort of hero to them. Sort of like, either the rebel hero or antihero, or no hero. But. You know, they’re sort of tearing apart the structure.

Question: Are there any of those sort of aberrant filmmakers on the on the scene today that you’re particularly anxious to work with?

Dennis Quaid: Well, I’d still love to work with the Coen Brothers, and I still consider them to be sort of mavericks. I really admire them, because they – it’s such, like, in a way – they kind of – I mean, every film, they kind of reinvent themselves. You know?

Question: Is fatherhood better the second time around?

Dennis Quaid: Yeah. It’s – well, I don’t know if it’s better, but it’s a lot easier. It’s easier in the sense that – you know, you’ve got – sure, all you guys who are Dads know that the first one comes along and you worry about everything. You know, the second ones come along, you know, “Yeah, [INAUD] out. That’s fine.” Seen that and done that. You kind of realize that it’s – you know, they finally are – they aren’t gonna go off to college and not – you know, like, the other night they slept through the night. You know, eventually those things happen. You know? Eventually, you know, you’re not gonna be changing diapers for the rest of your life. You know, they’ll get that down. And then – so. It’s a little easier. You’re more relaxed about it. But with two, it’s – it’s – you need another arm.

Question: Is it easy to tell them apart?

Dennis Quaid: What? Oh, yeah. Boy and a girl, yeah. It’s easy to tell them apart. Yeah. One’s wearing blue and the other one’s wearing pink. [LAUGHTER] You’d still be surprised. People go, like, cuz they don’t want to make a mistake. They go, “Oh, that’s the”—[LAUGHTER].

Question: Cuz they’re identical, aren’t they?

Dennis Quaid: “It’s the girl, isn’t it?” Yes. Yes!

Question: I wanted to ask you another question about G.I. Joe, if you don’t mind going back to that conversation. You’re starting next week. Have you done any sort of rehearsals, or have you had to train on any weapons? And also, could you just tell us what the movie’s about? [LAUGHTER] I don’t mean, like, a spoiler –

Dennis Quaid: I really don’t know what it’s about. [LAUGHTER] Well, it’s – you know, it’s kind of like, set a little bit in the future. And it’s – in a way, you know, the Joes are really sort of – like, they’re this international sort of – they’re this international sort of special forces type of group that mainly fights these terrorist groups that spring up. It’s really – it’s more like – the movie’s more like James Bond than it would be about – you know, like, a GI—yeah, it’s more like James Bond. And, you know, like with the group being Specter. There’s this real evil – there’s this evil mastermind who’s behind it. And I think it’s gonna be more like the old James Bonds. You know, like Dr. No,where the mastermind has his own private island and all these people are wearing matching coveralls.

QUESTION: Are you gonna have a flattop as General Hawk?

Dennis Quaid: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I mean, I’m special forces, I can do anything I want. So. [LAUGHTER] I’m thinking about actually kind of going a little blond, Robert Redfordish type of –

Question: Have you ever thought about doing television? Doing a TV series, where you don’t have to go and travel anywhere, and just settling down for nine months out of the year?

DENNIS QUAID: I – yeah, maybe later in life. I don’t know, I just like doing movies right now. It’s – I wouldn’t be above. But it’s like – especially, like, some of these – what’s happening in, like – what’s really happening in places like HBO and Cinemax, yeah, all those outlets right now, that’s really – I think, in a way, we keep talking about the ’70s, but that really is really what’s kind of happening now there. Where you kind of feel like, kind of torn apart. Television has gotten to the point where I think people are so used to – like, how many Friends episodes can you make? And that kind of, like, three camera sitcom, cop show situations, they’re really kind of tearing apart a lot of that, and giving people what they really want to see. You know?

Question: You mentioned the HBO series. But that one that they had last fall got a lot of attention because of the explicit sexuality. I had an actress say to me, “I could not believe Jane Alexander is sitting there”—she must be 75 or something – “Bare-breasted, going down on the guy in the thing.”

Dennis Quaid: I missed that one. [LAUGHTER]

Question: Would you be interested? I mean, this is – you know, this is –

Dennis Quaid: With Jane Alexander? [LAUGHTER] I really like Big Love. That’s really one of my favorites. Dexter. Which I think is down, like, on the regular –

Question: That’s Showtime.

Dennis Quaid: But it’s coming – I think it’s now CBS.

Question: Yeah.

Dennis Quaid: There’s a lot of it, really fun stuff to watch.

Question: I was actually hoping to get an answer if you’ve done any training or any rehearsals for the Joe project.

Dennis Quaid: I’m getting more buff. [LAUGHTER] Yeah.

Question: You look it.

Dennis Quaid: Thank you! Yeah, thanks.

Question: Do you work out every day?

DENNIS QUAID: Take a little – human growth hormone in the morning. [LAUGHTER] And – you kind of like, lay around. And – you know, pump the babies. [LAUGHTER]

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