Dennis Quaid on Playing ‘Favorite President’ Reagan: ‘He Was A Great Man’

During an interview with NBC anchor Megyn Kelly, actor Dennis Quaid described feeling nervous about his recently announced role playing Ronald Reagan for an upcoming biopic about the nation’s 40th president. Quaid told Kelly that Reagan was his “favorite president” and that he felt a “huge responsibility” to get him right in the film.

“Dennis Quaid is no stranger to Hollywood, bursting on the scene in the late 1970s....But after more than 60 starring roles, it is his latest that has him most nervous, that of President Ronald Reagan,” Kelly explained. She asked him: “So you must feel pressure?” Quaid replied: “Well, he was my favorite president of my life....There’s so many things that he did that changed my life and the world for the better.”

 

 

The actor proceeded to list just a few of Reagan’s accomplishments: “For one thing, ending the Cold War. And he brought back a sense of common sense. He stuck to his guns and his principles. He was a great man and a humble man.”

Moments later, Quaid revealed his support for the late president: “I voted for Reagan the first time, by the way.” He then described his political leanings this way: “And I’ve voted on both sides. I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat, I’m an independent. Always have been.” Kelly interjected: “Is that allowed in Hollywood? I didn’t realize that was allowed.” Quaid joked: “To be an independent, yeah, that’s allowed. That’s how I get away with it.”

Kelly observed that Reagan “had sort of an ‘aw shucks’ persona,” prompting Quaid to declare: “I think he was born genetically with a sunny disposition. And that’s the thing that he and I have in common. Because I do have a sunny disposition actually.”

Asking about the weight of the role, Kelly wondered: “Is there a bigger responsibility for you in taking on this role, given your admiration for him and so many people’s?” Quaid agreed: “Well, I feel a huge responsibility whenever I play somebody who was a real person, whether they’re dead or alive. Because I want to get them right.”

Noting that Quaid “plans to sift through first-hand accounts from over 50 people closest to the former president, including his surgeon, his longtime secret service agent, and his preacher” to prepare, Kelly asked: “To understand Reagan, you have to understand what a big role faith plays in his life, too....Can you relate to that at all?”

Quaid responded: “I do have a deep faith. I grew up in Sunday school in a Baptist church....It’s about that knowingness, the wonderful feeling of being alive.”

In a later portion of the lengthy exchange, Quaid also praised Reagan’s love affair with Nancy Reagan: “That to me is the greatest accomplishment I think he would think of his life, would be his relationship with Nancy....I think that’s what he wanted more than anything, to have a close intimacy with another person for your entire life.”

It’s refreshing to see a member of Hollywood openly express admiration for a conservative leader and a desire to portray him honestly on film.

Here are excerpts of the July 23 interview:

9:15 AM ET

MEGYN KELLY: So in Today’s Spotlight, Dennis Quaid. The Hollywood heartthrob sat down with me recently just north of Santa Barbara on the 688 acre sprawling property known as the Reagan Ranch, considered an oasis for the Reagan’s, the ranch sits all the way at the top of a long and windy road with sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Valley in California. Quaid’s next big thing? He recently signed on to play our 40th president in a film due out next year. And the home is still filled with the Reagan’s personal belongings everywhere. And it was here that Dennis and I talked about the parallels between the two men, from marriage and divorce to faith and family. Watch.

DENNIS QUAID: There was this shiver of fear that went up my spine. That’s usually to me a sign that I should do something.

KELLY: Really?

QUAID: Yeah, because it’s completely out of my comfort zone.

KELLY: Dennis Quaid is no stranger to Hollywood, bursting on the scene in the late 1970s with his boyish grin. But after more than 60 starring roles, it is his latest that has him most nervous, that of President Ronald Reagan. So you must feel pressure? 

QUAID: Well, he was my favorite president of my life.

KELLY: Why?

QUAID: There’s so many things that he did that changed my life and the world for the better. For one thing, ending the Cold War. And he brought back a sense of common sense. He stuck to his guns and his principles. He was a great man and a humble man.

KELLY: Just last month, Quaid was tapped to play the title role in the upcoming star-studded biopic Reagan, about the life of the 40th president.

QUAID: I voted for Reagan the first time, by the way.

KELLY: You did?

QUAID: Yeah. And I’ve voted on both sides. I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat, I’m an independent. Always have been.

KELLY: Is that allowed in Hollywood? I didn’t realize that was allowed.

QUAID: Probably. To be an independent, yeah, that’s allowed. That’s how I get away with it. [Laughter]  

KELLY: Do you feel the need to go study his mannerisms?

QUAID: Yes.

KELLY: His speech cadence.

QUAID: Yes.

KELLY: He had sort of an “aw shucks” persona.

QUAID: I think he was born genetically with a sunny disposition. And that’s the thing that he and I have in common. Because I do have a sunny disposition actually.  

KELLY: Is there a bigger responsibility for you in taking on this role, given your admiration for him and so many people’s?

QUAID: Well, I feel a huge responsibility whenever I play somebody who was a real person, whether they’re dead or alive. Because I want to get them right. But I also want to get over all the admiration stuff. Because they don’t feel that way about themselves.

KELLY: President Reagan came here, this sort of simple place where he would build the fences, ride the horses.

QUAID: He could feel like himself, I think. Because I think this was his dream to have a place like this. I think it gave him peace, I think, to be here.

KELLY: Solitude.

QUAID: Yeah.

(...)

9:19 AM ET

KELLY: To prepare for Reagan, he plans to sift through first-hand accounts from over 50 people closest to the former president, including his surgeon, his longtime secret service agent, and his preacher.

To understand Reagan, you have to understand what a big role faith plays in his life, too.

QUAID: Oh, for sure.

KELLY: Can you relate to that at all?

QUAID: I do have a deep faith. I grew up in Sunday school in a Baptist church. Faith to me is not about, like, being a boy scout or a sinner or this or that. That’s what redemption is. It’s about that knowingness, the wonderful feeling of being alive.

(...)

9:34 AM ET

KELLY: Thinking about the parallel between your life and Reagan’s life. You’ve been divorced. He was divorced, too. He wound up finding the love of his life in Nancy Reagan.

QUAID: That to me is the greatest accomplishment I think he would think of his life, would be his relationship with Nancy.

KELLY: What do you think she meant to him?

QUAID: Everything. Yeah, I think everything. I think that’s what he wanted more than anything, to have a close intimacy with another person for your entire life. Isn’t that what everybody wants?

(...)

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