Sunday, August 08, 2010

Dennis Quaid and the "Tim Riggins" Type

Remember when Dennis Quaid played f***up former high school football star "Mike" in Best Picture nominee Breaking Away (1979)? [What a vintage crop, eh? Breaking Away, Kramer Vs. Kramer (write-up), Apocalypse Now (write-up), All That Jazz (write-up) and Norma Rae? Love that Oscar year.] Or, depending on when you were born, do you remember when you first saw him doing so? Erik Lundegaard does and wrote up a sweet tribute to the film yesterday.

Dennis Quaid in Breaking Away. He turned 25 shortly before the movie opened.

Erik describes Mike aptly as "a Springsteen character without the guts" and uses Mike's own words to further the point
You know what really gets me, though? I mean here I am, I gotta live in this stinkin’ town, and I gotta read in the newspapers about some hot-shot kid, new star of the college team. Every year it’s gonna be a new one. And every year it’s never gonna be me. I’m just gonna be Mike. Twenty-year-old Mike. Thirty-year-old Mike. Ol’ mean ol’ man Mike! These college kids out here are never gonna get old, or out of shape, cause new ones come along every year.
Mike is too gutless to stop the downward slide and knows it. He's tragically aware that his glory days are behind him and he's only 19. Dennis's best days, on the other hand, had just begun. This was only his sixth feature and first memorable breakthrough.

People often uncharitably view older stars as "has beens" -- I'm not saying people say this about DQ mind you. What do they say about him? -- but if you were working when you were in your early twenties and you're still working consistently in your mid fifties, this is a resounding success story for any actor, whether they're above the title or way down on the call sheet. It's a tough life and the odds are against success.

But back to Breaking Away... and Friday Night Lights (?)

Wasn't Quaid's Mike essentially Tim Riggins before there was a Tim Riggins? Or at least from the same character gene pool. Mike has more of a chipped shoulder and less of a golden heart.

Character intros: "Mike", former football star, is introduced singing, leisurely leading his friends to an afternoon swim in Breaking Away. He's all about killing time, responsibility is not a priority. "Tim Riggins", current football star, is introduced in the Friday Night Lights pilot, drunk and sleepy-eyed. Getting to football practice on time is not a priority.

Yes, this post has also been brought to you by last night's season finale of Friday Night Lights which was just marvelous. Speaking of FNL and Tim Riggins, can Taylor Kitsch, who came to fame playing him (coincidentally, like Quaid, just as he was turning 25), manage a movie career after Friday Night Lights? That's the plan. Dennis Quaid wouldn't be a bad role model at all in building an enduring big screen resume. And that's true not just for Kitsch, who is 29 now, but true for any other young actor who excels at aimless bad boys, charming devils and/or All American types approaching personal crises.

Kitsch has made six movies already but he'll get his first real shot at big screen stardom when John Carter of Mars, his seventh, opens in 2012. He's already done filming but the post-production will be long on that one.

<-- Dennis seen prepping for his role in Soul Surfer earlier this year

Dennis will next be seen (presumably) at the Emmy Awards on August 21st. He's nominated for playing Bill Clinton in the TV film That Special Relationship. Next year we'll see him as the dad of a shark attack survivor in Soul Surfer and (possibly?) in the bible-thumping John Lithgow role in the remake of Footloose (2011).


Anonymous said...

Dennis Quaid and I are the same age (born a month apart). I remember seeing him in BA in 1979 and thinking what a great body. I remember seeing him later in his career in Postacards from the Edge and thinking what a great body. It looks like he still has a great body for his upcoming Soul Surfer movie. I also remember thinking how shitty it was that he did not receive an Oscar nomination for his terrific performance in Far From Heaven. Love ya, Dennis.

mrripley said...

I would've nominated dennis in 1983 for the right stuff and 2002 for far from heaven.


anon -- so did you see this in the theater? i remember my sister being into it but i don't remember seeing it in the theater. I might have though since she was into it and i loved to tag around with whatever the teenagers were doing. the annoying kid brother routine, you know.

mrripley -- he definitely deserved it in 2002. I think the Right Stuff, it's realy hard to single someone out... at least without watching it again. great movie, though.

it's crazy that he did the whole biopic mimicry thing and still couldn't get any traction either. Oscar doesn't like him.

but i do!

adri said...

I've never seen "Breaking Away". I first saw Dennis Quaid in "The Big Easy" which was a great vehicle for him. His professional fall from grace must have been hard on him, but I think it's made him a better actor. I like the way his work is sincere, honest, hard-working, and delivers value in his performance.

He and Tom Cruise used to vie for best cocky grin- Quaid is beyond that now. He's got substance.

I especially like the series of dads that he's played (so perfect with Natasha Richardson). His dad in "Frequency" is a top classic. Also, the dads in The Rookie, Dinner with Friends, Welcome to the Paradise (heart-breaking). I haven't seen it, but people said that he should have been given more recognition for his surrogate father/soldier in Savior. In each of these roles, there's a common thread of what's actually important: love, loyalty, responsibility for children, gratitude.

/3rtfu11 said...

The couch frame looks very Pineapple Express James Franco.

John T said...

I know this isn't the point of the post, but I never realized how sexy a young Dennis Quaid was. He looks a little like Josh Brolin.

cal roth said...

Hate that year. How could you ever say Krame vs Kramer is a better movie than both All That Jazz and Apocalypse Now? And these ones aren't even the best of that year - which is Manhattan, no doubt, and got shafted.

People were kidding - how is Dustin Hoffman better than Scheider or, shame on them, Peter Fucking Sellers?

What about Alien? Best Director material, of course, and you can't even say it was bias against sci-fe since Spielberg had just got a nomination for Close Encounters and George Lucas for Star Wars.

And how Kramer vs Kramer got a nomination for cinematography? And The Black Stallion did not!

AS matter of fact that year had wrong choices like any other, but I can't stand Kramer vs Kramer. It's so bad, so mediocre, and we had a lot of beautiful movies. Any episode of Once and Again or any family-drama tv show is better than Kramer vs Kramer.


cal -- yeah, we'll have to agree to disagree. I can't understand why people hate Kramer Vs. Kramer. It's very moving. It didn't deserve to win, no. But still a find contemporary drama and very zeitgeisty at the time no doubt, given the insane box office.

and yes, I'd agree that MANHATTAN is the best movie of 1979. But what a year it was. 3 of the best movies of all time in one year? yikes. that's embarrassingly rich. at least 2 of them were in the BP lineup which is more than you can say for most years.

Paolo said...

Dennis Quaid is like wine, he looks better as he ages. And still looks better than Josh Brolin.

Speaking of 1979, Apocalypse Now was off putting the second time, I can't point my finger on why I think that.

And Dustin Hoffman is the greatest and most consistent actor of the New Hollywood generation. He makes everyone else feel one-note and brash.

billybil said...

I wanted Dennis Quaid so bad it hurt. I still do. I bet he's a real humdinger in the sack!