When the going's good, even potential bad news can seem a blessing. And things are going swimmingly for Dennis Quaid.
His last film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, had some of the worst advance press of any movie this year.
"It's fun to be a part of something that a lot of people are worked up about," he says diplomatically. Yes, Quaid, who played General Hawk, saw the rumors and "biggest flop of the summer" predictions. "I read everything." But Joe, a franchise action film based on the toys and the TV cartoon about those toys, has earned more than $140 million in the United States.
No, he's not the A-list leading man he was 10 years ago. But Quaid, 55, still does good work in ensembles (The Express, Vantage Point, Flight of the Phoenix) and finds interesting leads (Smart People). And at this stage of his career, he's not shy about hunting for hits — movies whose box office might boost his quote, extend his career.
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His latest, Pandorum, opening Friday, has possibilities. With its resemblance to Alien and other claustrophobic sci-fi films, it could click with two audiences: sci-fi and horror.
"I love the paranoia that this (spaceship) setting gives it," Quaid says. "Two guys from the crew wake up from cryo-sleep on a spaceship that's probably 5 miles long. Huge. When you wake up, you don't know who you are, where you are or what you're doing. Nobody's there to tell them. And they can't open the door to their sleeping chamber, try to contact somebody elsewhere on the ship, just to figure out how to open the door and get out.
"It's a horror film, a psychological thriller, very Twilight Zone. It's a myth, a story that points toward a deeper truth within ourselves that we have no words for, really, about who we are when we strip away all those trappings of our day-to-day existence. You have this story that you can enjoy as a horror tale or a thriller. But the reason it scares you is that it points to yourself, to who you are in this life."
It's not Quaid's only foray into horror. Legion is due out in January. Strangers stranded at a truck stop in the desert Southwest face the biblical end of the world.
"Well, that's a very kind of a very well-done first-class drive-in zombie movie," he says, laughing.
The big acting job on his plate now is the one he spent the summer at his Montana home prepping for. The Special Relationship is about the historic and personal connection between Britain and America as embodied by Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and Quaid's character, Bill Clinton.
"I've been eating everything that isn't nailed down," Quaid jokes. That was his preparation — putting on Clinton's weight. And watching a lot of video of the former president. "I think I'm ready for it. I've got the voice. Just got to keep working on it and see where we can go with it.
"I had a relationship with Bill Clinton when he was in the White House. He was the smartest person I've ever met, and that's the key to him. He's just a really, really bright guy. A tough role, a challenging one. He's never really been done in a movie, except in parody (John Travolta in Primary Colors). Travolta did a good job on him, but Clinton's from Arkansas, I'm from Texas. I think I've got him."