There is an adage in Hollywood: Never work with kids or dogs. Someone failed to tell that to a certain laid-back actor named Dennis Quaid, who stars in “A Dog’s Journey” opening Friday.
No two-hour lunches were needed to engage his co-stars on the set of the sequel to the 2017 hit, “A Dog’s Purpose.” “You carry around bacon in your pocket and you get some friends when it comes to dogs,” says Quaid, 65, who added, “I love working with dogs because they’re not self-absorbed actors with big egos. They’re all about the snacks.”
Quaid, who lives in the mountains of Santa Barbara, is all over big and small screens these days. He stars in the current horror film “The Intruder” and on TV’s “Goliath.” Next up for him is a role as Ronald Reagan in the film “Reagan” due out next year. In his free time, you can also find him walking his year old mini English bulldog. What did a tough guy like Quaid name her? Peaches.
Review-Journal: What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Dennis Quaid: I like a lazy Sunday because it gives you time to do a lot of thinking. It’s also a great day to do a little golfing or playing guitar or piano. The most important thing on a Sunday is hanging out with my family and my animals.
What made you say yes to “A Dog’s Purpose?”
My agent called me up for the first of these films and got three sentences into what it was about. I said, “You’re going to make me cry.” Everyone loves movies about dogs because everyone loves dogs. What’s interesting is that people bring their own relationships with their pets to these movies.
What do you love about dogs?
Dogs live in the moment. Dogs don’t judge. They’re always there for you. Beyond that dogs are really sensitive to your moods, which is so interesting to me. They take on your stress, your happy times and your down times. They’re like a sponge for you, which is such a cool thing.
Is it true that you almost became a veterinarian?
I grew up in Texas and couldn’t decide if I should be a veterinarian or forest ranger. I had a great drama teacher in college who really drew me to acting. Plus, my brother Randy was an actor. I left school and went to Hollywood for a few weeks. Jonathan Demme was casting a movie called “Crazy Mama.” He knew my brother. One day, Demme said to me, “You wanna be in my movie?” I played a bellboy who had one line during a robbery, “Oh my God, don’t shoot me.” That line didn’t make it in the movie, but it was a start. I was in a real movie. That’s what counted here.
You’ve been working since 1975 in films including “The Right Stuff” to “The Big Easy.” Any favorites?
I do love “The Big Easy” because all these years later, it really does hold up. But in general, I judge my movies a little differently than most people do. Mostly, I think about the experience, and experience-wise, my favorite was “The Right Stuff.” I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a little boy growing up in Houston and my favorite all-time astronaut was Gordon Cooper. I was so lucky to get to play him and at the same time I got my pilot’s license. It was such an amazing experience. As for my best overall film, I’ll leave that to other people to decide.
You filmed the series “Vegas” in Vegas in 2012 where you played Sheriff Ralph Lamb. Any favorite memories of shooting in and around Sin City?
It was just a great experience because this was such a strong real-life character. I met Ralph on the set and what a colorful guy. One of the great parts of this series is that I didn’t real know about the history of Las Vegas in the 1960s, but I learned it from this show, which was about the building of Vegas and how it became what we know today. I also got to bring a Texas guy to Vegas. I remember being on a horse in the desert at sunrise. I felt right at home.
You have defied aging. What is the secret?
Oh, I definitely feel my age. Sometimes in the morning, I really feel it! I think the secret is you gotta just keep moving in life. I’m at the gym almost every day. Don’t sit down. Don’t rest too much. Keep moving like a shark keeps swimming.
Speaking of which, you front the band Dennis Quaid and the Sharks. What’s the appeal of rocking at this age?
I’ve always loved music. One of my favorite things in life has been touring all over the United States with the band. We’re going to be the oldest guys ever to make it in rock ’n’ roll.
What is the joy of making movies for you now?
I have more fire in my belly than I did when I was 20 to do this work. Why? I know more about life. I also believe humans go to the movies to feel things. Maybe they’re things we can’t express, but we identify with them in the dark while watching a movie. If I can help people feel then I’ve done my job. I have a very lucky life because of what I do.
Let’s say a fan runs into you while you’re walking your dog. What Dennis Quaid movie do they bring up?
It doesn’t matter if I’m in Cincinnati or Calcutta. People ask me about “Innerspace.” Or I’ll hear, “It’s the ‘Innerspace’ guy!” That really surprises me. Of course, kids will still rush up and ask about a million “Parent Trap” questions. I know parents have watched it 40 times in a row and it’s a great movie, but I want to apologize right now because you shouldn’t have to see anything 40 times in a row.