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Dennis Quaid Tackles His Toughest Role Yet ​

Actor talks ‘Reagan’ movie, new History Channel project, offers retirement advice


spinner image Dennis Quaid against green ombre background
AARP (Diana King)

At age 70, actor Dennis Quaid says he’s taken on the most challenging role of his career — playing President Ronald Reagan in the movie Reagan, in theaters August 30. A self-proclaimed history buff, he was also eager to sign on as host, narrator and executive producer of the History Channel’s Holy Marvels With Dennis Quaid. The series launches June 3 and features historians, authors and professors of archaeology and religious studies explaining the significance of some of the world’s most sacred relics. In our interview, Quaid shares the challenges of playing the former president, how he celebrated turning 70 and why he has no regrets in life.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Was it difficult to portray an iconic real-life figure like Ronald Reagan?

Yes. This was probably the most difficult role I’ve ever had, because I didn’t want to do an impersonation — just talk like him and use a bunch of makeup to look like him. What I love about acting is finding out what makes people tick. And he is one of the most known, iconic figures in the world, even still. It was a great challenge for me.

What made you want to host Holy Marvels?

I’ve always been a history buff, all my life, and I’m also a Christian … and so this sounded like a very interesting show to do. It was a very easy yes. We go through not just Christianity but Judaism and Islam, Buddhism — all religions around the world — and these sacred objects and investigate them and bring to light things that are very similar to all of us.

As a religious person, do you feel connected to the objects featured on the show?

Well, I went around the world way back when — I got one of those Pan Am tickets they used to sell where you could buy a ticket around the world.… It was a couple of months back during the late ’70s. I had a question for every place that I went: “Who is God to you?” And basically, everyone around the world has pretty much the same concept. Religions at their base are not very different at all. People feel a spiritual connection, even societies that were separated by geography for thousands of years [are] sometimes very similar.

You turned 70 recently. Did you have a big party?

I laid low this year. We [Quaid and his wife, Laura Savoie Quaid] were on spring break with the kids [his twins, Thomas and Zoe, 16, with his third wife Kimberly Buffington. Quaid also has a son Jack, 32, with his second wife, Meg Ryan]. We took them down to Mexico. That was great.

What’s one important life lesson you tell your kids?

I tell them to find something that you love to do and then figure out a way to get paid for it. Then you will have at least a third of your life figured out.

How do you choose your projects?

spinner image Dennis Quaid as Ronald Reagan in front of desk in what looks like the oval office in a still from Reagan
Quaid plays former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the upcoming film "Reagan."
Noah "Nanea" Hamilton

Well, I just do what I’ve always done — I do what I’m interested in. I’m very lucky to be able to do that, I realize. I have the greatest job in the world. I’m very thankful about that. I think it’s important no matter what we do to keep busy. Even if one retires — find another kind of career, at least in your mind. I’m still trying to become a better golfer.

How is your golf game?

Golfing delusions of grandeur followed by extreme humbleness. It’s like life. It’s important to still enjoy it. Enjoy the ride.

Is that what you would tell your younger self?

Oh definitely. Take it easy. One good thing, I think, about getting older is that you learn to deal with stress, and you learn to deal with the things in life. Maybe that’s wisdom. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a buffoon. Things like that don’t stick to me much anymore. Things get easier to take because you know more, and you’ve been through experiences. You should know what roads not to go down. I just really enjoy life. The older I get, the more I really appreciate this beautiful world.

Are you doing anything differently as you age to keep healthy?

No. I’ve always exercised. I’ve always worked out. There was a guy at the YMCA when I was boxing back in my 20s and he was in his 50s. And he told me that if you take care of yourself in your 20s and your 30s, you form habits that tend to stick with you, because you’ve been doing it so long. It’s about keeping your metabolism high. Genetically, I think I’m on the lucky side. I rededicate myself every decade to keep on keeping on.

Do you have any regrets?

No. I really don’t. Even the bad stuff that’s happened to me, because everybody has hardship in their life or mistakes or whatever, and it forms us — how we handle that and get through it. It makes us full people.

 

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