The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Stars of the '80s
Dennis Quaid
Born 9 April 1954 in Houston, Texas, this electrician's son studied drama in college, but dropped out to go to Los Angeles, moving in with his older brother Randy, who had already launched an acting career in Hollywood. Quaid got his big break with 1979's Breaking Away, and the following year starred with his brother in the critically acclaimed western The Long Riders. In 1983 he earned kudos for his role as Astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff, and with 1984's Dreamscape became one of the decade's most reliable leading men. One of his best performances came as homicide detective Remy McSwain in the modern film noir classic The Big Easy.  In 1989's Great Balls of Fire! he demonstrated his versatility by playing legendary rock'n'roller Jerry Lee Lewis. He starred opposite Cher in Suspect and Jessica Lange in Everybody's All American.
In the mid-Eighties he was engaged for three years to Lea Thompson, whom he met while filming Jaws 3-D. He was teamed with Meg Ryan in Innerspace, and they appeared together again in D.O.A. In 1991 the two were wed -- a marriage that lasted ten years, amid rumors that Quaid had a growing drug problem. They had one son, Jack Henry, born in 1992. It was Quaid's second marriage; he had previously wed German-born actress P.J. Soles, his co-star in Our Winning Season (1978) and Breaking Away.
Quaid's most memorable filmwork in the 1990s includes his performance as Doc Holliday in Kevin Costner's 1994 epic western, Wyatt Earp and as quarterback Cap Rooney in Oliver Stone's celebrated behind-the-scenes look at the world of professional football, Any Given Sunday (1999). He also starred in Dragonheart (1996) and Switchback (1997). He opened the next decade with a plum role in the megahit Traffic (2000.) An accomplished musician, Quaid plays gigs with his band The Sharks when time allows.
-- JM
1980s Filmography
The Long Riders (1980)
Gorp (1980)
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981)
Caveman (1981)
All Night Long (1981)
Tough Enough (1983)
Jaws 3-D (1983)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Dreamscape (1984)
Enemy Mine (1985)
The Big Easy (1987)
Innerspace (1987)
Suspect (1987)
D.O.A (1988)
Everybody's All American (1988)
Great Balls of Fire! (1989)


Critics' Comments
Tough Enough (1983)
"Despite the cliches, the overworked theme, and an absolute predictability from start to finish, Tough Enough still manages some charm, thanks to its star, Dennis Quaid....His energy and humor give his scenes spontaneity, and his exchanges with his young son (Christopher Norris) are delightful, particularly one in which Quaid sings a rousing "lullaby" called "The Jungle," written by Quaid himself. (He's an appealing singer, too.)"
-- People Weekly

The Big Easy (1987)
"Until conventional plot contrivances begin to spoil the fun, The Big Easy is a snappy, sassy battle of the sexes in the guise of a melodrama about police corruption....In the classic screwball-comedy tradition of opposites irresistably attracting, brash New Orleans homicide detective Dennis Quaid, puts the make on Ellen Barkin, a northern import assigned by the D.A.'s office to investigate possible illegal activities in the department. Not necessarily the likeliest of couples, Quaid and Barkin bring great energy and an offbeat wired quality to their roles." -- Variety

Suspect (1987)
"Suspect, which was written by Eric Roth and directed by Peter Yates, makes an odd point: that perhaps, under certain circumstances, it's all right to dispense with professional ethics and indulge in a little jury tampering. Yates also skates blithely over such things as probability and common sense. This might be forgivable if the film were entertainingly made or at least energetic, but it's neither. As a thriller, it's becalmed. Quaid, who can usually be counted on to perk things up, is only marginally livelier, but all he's doing here is a variation on the velvety charmers he's played recently, and he looks as bored with it as we are."
 -- Hal Hinson, Washington Post

Everybody's All American (1988)
"Corny, overblown, dopey and yet somehow entertaining, the screenplay sounds as if it were cowritten by Dick Butkus and Jackie Collins....Director Taylor Hackford tries to give the tale a sense of history and higher purpose, transposing newsreels of Selma sit-ins with the dilemmas of the perfect couple at its core. But this is still "A Streetcar Named Astroturf." Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange play the icons in question, an LSU running back and his stunning sweetheart, Miss Magnolia of 1956. Infectious as ever, Quaid carries the movie as Gavin Grey, an acclaimed running back who becomes a first-round draft pick for the Washington Redskins."
-- Rita Kempley, Washington Post

Cher and Quaid in Suspect


Quaid wrote songs for three of his movies -- The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, Tough Enough and The Big Easy.
In 1988, Quaid won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead in a movie for his work inThe Big Easy.
Quaid was set to star in David Lean's Nostromo, but the production was shelved after Lean's death.
Quaid appeared in the video for Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About."