Dennis Quaid was the golden boy of Hollywood in the 1980s—but few people could have guessed what was really going on behind the scenes. Off stage, the actor’s life was full of drama, trauma, and dark secrets, and it was all bound to unravel in a spectacularly public manner. Today, Quaid has tried to put his demons behind him, but somehow they keep popping up…
1. He Had To Earn His Fame
There’s a reason Quaid has so much southern charm: He was born in 1954 in Houston, Texas. Unlike so many Hollywood insiders, his parents were firmly middle-class with no family connections to Los Angeles. Because of this, Quaid had to fight his way to the top, taking drama classes at Houston College as he grew up. But before long, he’d have to make a big sacrifice.
2. He Failed At Hollywood
As a young man, Quaid was so certain he was going to be a star, he dropped out of college before completing his degree and moved to Hollywood to try to make a go of it. At first, it seemed like he had made a huge mistake. He couldn’t seem to find solid work—or, really, any work at all—and he might have been one of Hollywood’s many untold failures. Except with one casting, everything changed.
3. He Got A Big Break
As the 1970s came to a close, Quaid won a supporting role in Breaking Away, a coming-of-age film starring another up-and-comer, Dennis Christopher. But while Quaid’s rival “Dennis” won all the accolades that year, those in the know in Hollywood paid more and more attention to Quaid. He earned a string of new parts, including a starring role in 1981’s The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.
And just as his professional life was heating up, his personal life hit a new high, too.
4. He Met A Great Love
While trying to make ends meet in his early days in Hollywood, Quaid met and fell in love with actress P.J. Soles, who understood the trials of fame all too well. The pair bonded over their tribulations, and in 1978 they married in a quiet, private ceremony befitting two unknown actors. Yet as Quaid gained more attention in Tinseltown, his romance fell apart very publicly.
5. He Went Through A Difficult Divorce
In 1983, Quaid was working on his next big film, the historical astronaut epic The Right Stuff. The flick would go on to rocket him into the stratosphere of fame (pun intended), but at home, things were looking VERY “Houston, we have a problem” for Quaid’s marriage (sorry). He and P.J. Soles hadn’t found a way to transition their relationship to adapt to Quaid’s fame, and they split up the same year The Right Stuff came out. But…then it got downright juicy.
6. His Ex Married His Co-Worker
When Soles and Quaid divorced in 1983, a shocking revelation came out. Quaid’s ex-wife almost immediately started dating a man named Skip Holm, who—get this—was actually one of the stunt pilots for The Right Stuff. Were there some blurred lines throughout the breakup? I’m betting yes. And digging the knife in deeper, Soles then married Holm before the year was up. Ouch.
Somehow, though, Quaid’s life was going to get even more dramatic, both on the marquee and on the mattress.
7. He Was A Party Boy
Just after the implosion of his first marriage, Quaid became a bona fide star in the mid-80s, starring in hits like The Big Easy. But around this time, his world started to spin dangerously out of control. With fame and bachelordom came an endless string of parties, celebrity friends, and nameless women, and Quaid was as susceptible as any young star to these vices. Actually, he was way more susceptible…
8. He Had An Intense Addiction
By the time he was making The Big Easy, Quaid had developed one life-threatening habit. He became severely addicted to cocaine. After all, practically everyone in Hollywood took the white powder at one time or another, and Quaid later admitted he was very blasé about his use for a long time during his stardom. Until, that is, he had a very rude awakening.
9. His Work Took A Nosedive
According to Quaid, he sniffed “pretty much on a daily basis during the 80s,” and the actor soon discovered that he could no longer work properly and still feed his addiction. He would roll onto set, still on a bender after having partied all night, and try to make it through the day without anyone noticing. Oh, but they did. And behind closed doors, Quaid was even worse than people knew.
10. He Was Desperate For Salvation
Quaid didn’t think anything of his substance use in the middle of partying—but once the morning came, it was an entirely different story. The actor was starting to realize the depth of his problem, and he would desperately pray to be able to stop. As he confessed, “I spent many, many a night screaming at God to ‘Please take this away from me and I’ll never do it again, cause I’ve only got an hour before I have to be at work.’”
Unfortunately, for all the rock bottoms that Quaid hit, he would always forget about them by the afternoon. Instead, as he headed into the most infamous decade of his life, the problem festered, big time.
11. He Became Part Of A Power Couple
In 1988, Quaid had a now-famous date with destiny. He starred alongside newcomer Meg Ryan in the neo-noir remake of D.O.A. Although the two actors had already starred in Innerspace together just a year earlier, something was different this time around. They quickly struck up a flirtation and then a relationship, and before they knew it, they became Hollywood’s newest power couple. But what goes up must come down.
12. He Had A “White Light” Experience
By 1990, Quaid and Ryan were engaged, and the press romanticized every bit of their relationship. Inside, though, Quaid was still falling apart at an alarming speed. His addiction issues plagued him every day, and it came to its dark climax at last. As Quaid put it, “I had what I call a white light experience where I saw myself either dead or losing everything that meant anything to me.”
Accordingly, the actor entered rehab, with Meg Ryan steadfastly supporting him. But Quaid managed to mess that up, too…
13. Hollywood Spat Him Out
Although he was on the road to recovery and had a beautiful woman on his arm, Quaid still didn’t have all luck. After his stint in rehab, his star power took an enormous dip. Meanwhile, Meg Ryan’s fame continued to skyrocket as she starred in an absolute rogue’s gallery of 90s hits, including Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and You’ve Got Mail. Watching Ryan, Quaid began to spiral again, for a disturbing reason.
14. He Was Jealous Of His Wife
After his stint in rehab dried up his jobs, Quaid quite simply could not handle that Ryan’s career was hotter than his, and it only got worse after they married in 1991. Quaid admits, “When we met, I was the big deal,” and so when he suddenly had to face people coming up to Meg on the street and screaming her name, he could barely contain his jealousy. Maybe that’s why he began to push himself in more chilling ways.
15. He Made A Brutal Sacrifice
Now utterly single-minded about getting his fame back, Quaid signed up to play Doc Holliday in the 1994 prestige Western Wyatt Earp. In the film, Holliday is suffering from tuberculosis, and the production required the actor to lose a whopping 40 pounds to portray how sick Holliday was. Keen to prove himself, Quaid jumped right in and started dieting. Then suddenly, it took a horrific turn.
16. He Was Anorexic
Quaid was able to shed the pounds with alarming ease, and soon enough, he simply couldn’t stop losing the weight. Before anyone knew it—and before society had much understanding of the illness—Quaid had developed anorexia nervosa. As he said, “I’d look in the mirror and still see a 180-lb. guy, even though I was 138 pounds.” Recovery was so difficult that Quaid sought professional help once more. And his nightmare was only beginning.
17. He Suffered A Crushing Failure
The actor had busted his body, mind, and soul for the part of Doc Holliday in Wyatt Earp, but he hoped it would all be worth it in the end and mark a return to glory for his career. Instead, he got one of the worst disappointments of his life. Wyatt Earp was a box office failure and made several “Worst of the Year” lists. Quaid was officially washed up…or so he thought.
18. He Got The Opportunity Of A Lifetime
As Quaid starred in mediocre film after mediocre film in the 90s, he didn’t know what to do with himself anymore. His comeback came in a surprising form. In 1998, just as his dry decade wound down, director Nancy Meyers approached him about appearing as the father Nick in a re-make of The Parent Trap, with Lindsay Lohan playing his twin children and Natasha Richardson playing his ex-wife.
We now know that Quaid took on the part in the future blockbuster and finally put himself back in the Hollywood conversation—but most people don’t know that Quaid almost turned it down, for a very stupid reason.
19. He Couldn’t Face Aging
Quaid might have been eager to get his mojo back, but some of his old flaws were still very much present. He later said that when Meyers first asked him to come on board, he had to think twice. He had “resisted” dad roles before then because he still saw himself as “the cool guy dressed in black.” However, agreeing to The Parent Trap was probably the best thing he’d ever done for his career…and he didn’t mind getting a little saucy on set.
20. He Catcalled A Co-Star
When The Parent Trap was still casting for its secondary characters, Quaid had a steamy moment with an actress. The producers brought in Elaine Hendrix, who ended up playing Nick’s much younger trophy girlfriend Meredith Blake in the movie. Well, Quaid showed his approval immediately. The moment the beauty walked in, Quaid turned to the filmmakers and mouthed an appreciative, “Are you kidding me?”
As the cast later recalled, they all broke out laughing. After all, “It was like a scene in a movie…it could’ve been a scene from The Parent Trap.” Sadly, though, Quaid’s real romantic life was no laughing matter.
21. His Wife Fell In Love With Another Man
Just as Quaid’s career was getting back on track, his marriage to Meg Ryan went right off the rails. In 2000, rumors hit the tabloids that while Ryan was making Proof of Life, she’d fallen head over heels for her co-star Russell Crowe, with papers reporting her extreme “infatuation” and claiming they were having an affair. Still, the situation was about to get a whole lot worse.
22. He Had A Very Public Split
Almost immediately after the news broke, Quaid and Ryan put fuel on the fire and announced their separation. Then, photos came out of Ryan and Crowe spending some “quality” time together, sending Hollywood into a tailspin. It confirmed what everyone already suspected to be true: Ryan had left Quaid for Russell Crowe. To this day, Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe are the gold standard for new Hollywood scandal—but Ryan says there’s a different side to the story.
23. He Betrayed His Wife
Although Dennis Quaid was certainly an injured party in the sudden split of his second marriage, he was no innocent, either. Though there’s still very little made of it today, Ryan eventually confessed that Quaid had also cheated on her during the course of their marriage. As she said in an interview, “Dennis was not faithful to me for a long time, and that was very painful.” Still, Ryan had one final blow for Quaid.
24. His Marriage Imploded For Nothing
Although Quaid’s Hollywood fairy tale had ended, Ryan didn’t even stay with her other man for long. Reportedly, Crowe was all in, but Ryan had only been looking for a way out from Quaid, and the illicit couple split within months. Oof. On top of that, Quaid was utterly mortified to be so publicly cuckolded, and he threw himself back into his comeback—with gut-wrenching results.
25. He Went For The Oscar
In 2002, just one year after his divorce from Ryan went through, Quaid was starring in yet another prestige period piece, this time Todd Haynes’s 1950s drama Far From Heaven. The cast boasted huge stars like Julianne Moore, and Quaid himself got big Oscar buzz going into Awards season for playing Moore’s husband in the movie. It all ended in pain.
26. He Got A Huge Snub
Although Quaid won the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Far From Heaven, the Oscar trophy eluded him. He never even got nominated for the academy award—and in fact, to this day he has never been nominated for a single Oscar. When Quaid woke up that morning and found out he had missed out yet again, his reaction was heartbreaking.
27. He Suffered A Big Embarrassment
Some actors like to play off awards as though they don’t matter to them—but not Quaid, especially not when he found out he worked so hard on Far From Heaven and still didn’t make it to Oscar night. “I felt embarrassed and a little humiliated,” he confessed decades later, chilled at the thought that everyone was waiting for him to gain an accomplishment that didn’t come. Soon enough, though, Quaid had more intense things to worry about than fame.
28. He Tried To Settle Down
Quaid could never stay single for long. Immediately after his divorce, he entered into a brief relationship with a model, and then in 2004, he tied the knot with the relatively normal real estate agent Kimberly Buffington. A Texas native like Quaid, Buffington married Quaid on the actor’s ranch, and it was supposed to be a period of settling down for the heartthrob. It was anything but.
29. His Newborn Babies Were In Grave Danger
Quaid already had a son, Jack, with Meg Ryan, and in 2007, he and Buffington welcomed twins Thomas and Zoe in Santa Monica, California. Then every parents’ worst nightmare happened. When the babies were just days old, they developed staph infections, and Quaid had to rush them to the hospital to get treatment. Then the horror deepened.
30. His Children Almost Died
The hospital was supposed to be a safer place for the vulnerable twins—but a cruel twist of fate made it one of the most dangerous trials Quaid had ever faced. While trying to treat them with blood thinners, the hospital attendants accidentally overdosed both the babies with 1,000 times the appropriate amount. Suddenly, their new lives hung in a desperate balance.
31. His Ordeal Haunted Him
In the end, the twins barely survived and had to spend even more time recovering. Yet the damage was already done. After this trauma, Quaid feared the whole process and ended up suing the drug manufacturer. But that wasn’t all. He also produced a series of Discovery Channel documentaries on patient safety. But it was his marriage that suffered the worst ripple effect of all.
32. His Marriage Fell Apart
By 2012, Quaid was done with his frenzy of advocacy in support of his children—and now he had to face his wife. Starting the same year, he and Buffington began one of the most bitter splits imaginable. They filed for divorce, took it back, announced separations, and reconciled countless times over the course of four years.
In 2016, they finally separated for good, with Buffington demanding full physical custody of the children. The divorce went through in 2018 and, uh, let’s just say Quaid rebounded in a big way…
33. He Had A Creepy Relationship
In 2019, Dennis Quaid seemed to find love once more when he dated and then quickly became engaged to another normal citizen named Laura Savoie. Nonetheless, the happy announcement sent shockwaves across social media. You see, Savoie might have been normal, but as a 26-year-old Ph.D. student, she was also 40 years younger than Quaid. And it does get creepier…
34. He Has A “Type”
Quaid definitely has a type—blondes, blondes, and more blondes. In fact, as one commenter pointed out, his new partner Savoie looks eerily like all three of his ex-wives put together. More than that, though, each time he chose a wife, they became successively younger. While P.J. Soles was three years older than him, Meg Ryan was eight years younger, and Kimberly Buffington was 16 years his junior. Yeah, just a tad icky.
35. His Favorite Director Is A Classic
Despite the dramatic ups and downs of his career, Quaid claims he only has one regret—that he never got to work with his favorite director, The Bridge on the River Kwai’s David Lean. Indeed, Quaid came tantalizingly close to living his dream: In 1991, the director cast him as the title character in an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo. Then it all came crashing down.
36. He Has The Worst Luck In Hollywood
Quaid was so excited for Lean’s project that he went right over to Nice, France to spend an afternoon with the director, picking his brain and “ask[ing] him every question there was.” But Quaid didn’t know the tragedy coming. Before Nostromo could get off the ground, David Lean passed from cancer, and Quaid lost his shot yet again.
37. He’s Going To Portray A Controversial President Next
These days, it’s looking like Quaid is going to make yet another comeback into the world of prestige film. After starring on sitcoms—and marrying his young bride Laura Savoie in 2020—he is now set to play President Ronald Reagan in the upcoming 2022 biopic Reagan. No word on what his Oscar chances will be this time, but here’s hoping.
38. He Wants A LiLo Comeback
Quaid knows a thing or two about rehab and the way Hollywood can chew you up and spit you out if you don’t present as anything less than perfect. Maybe this is why he still shares a special bond with his Parent Trap co-star Lindsay Lohan. “She was one of the most talented people I ever met,” he said. “When we were doing the film, she had me believing that there was two kids, that there were twins, for real.” Lilo forever.
39. He Has A Hidden Talent
Quaid may be an actor first, but he does have another artistic talent—writing and playing music. His interest goes back as far as his early film The Big Easy, where he wrote and performed the song “Closer to You” for the soundtrack. He also wrote the song “On My Way to Heaven” for his movie I Can Only Imagine, which he wrote for and about his late mother.
40. He Has Rockstar Habits
When Quaid isn’t writing music for his films, he’s actually living a rock-star life and performs with his band The Sharks. Quaid, naturally, is the lead singer in the band and, perhaps not so naturally, he likes to perform all their shows without any shoes or socks on, since being barefoot helps him feel like they’re just doing a casual practice in the living room.
41. He Adopted Himself
There’s one more thing many fans don’t know about Quaid: He’s a huge animal lover. He even co-hosts the podcast The Pet Show, and one day it led to a beautiful moment. While recording, he discovered that there was a cat down in Virginia named after him, and without missing a beat, he adopted the feline Dennis Quaid himself. Now that is how you love yourself.
42. Tom Hanks Stole His Career
Every actor has their Hollywood sliding doors story, roles that they almost nabbed but never quite got, where their “replacements” went on to gain great fame in the parts. The thing is, Dennis Quaid’s list of near-misses is heartbreaking in the depth and breadth of blockbusters he’s turned down. Probably the first one was 1980’s Big, which he declined only to open the door for Tom Hanks’s ascension.
As Quaid jokes, “I turned down Tom Hanks’ career!” Heck, though, that’s not even the worst one.
43. He Made A Smart Suggestion
Although his wife Meg Ryan became a bona fide star partly through the rom-com classic Sleepless in Seattle, the truth is Quaid could have had a piece of that pie too. Quaid had the part in his hands again, but he said no because he didn’t like the director’s vision of the film. Instead, when he bowed out, he told the production, “You should get Nora Ephron.” Then came a cruel twist of fate.
44. He Missed His Chance
See, eventually, Nora Ephron did come on to direct Sleepless in Seattle to great acclaim—but Quaid didn’t get his part back. Instead, they went with…Tom Hanks, yet again, and Quaid had to watch as his Hollywood rival acted opposite his own wife in one of the most beloved films of the 21st century. You win some, you lose some, Dennis. And sometimes you ruin it for yourself.
45. He Could Have Been A Scream King
Okay okay, another one just for good measure. If you can believe it, Quaid also let go of the role of Bob in 1978’s Halloween—his girlfriend at the time, P.J. Soles, was in it—because he was already working on another project. Poor Dennis.
46. His Life Imitates His Art
When it comes to Quaid’s relationship with Laura Savoie, there is an eerie coincidence. In The Parent Trap, Quaid’s middle-aged character Nick gets together with—wait for it—a 26-year-old blonde woman named Meredith Blake. Of course, that relationship doesn’t end up going so well in the film, so here’s hoping Quaid’s life doesn’t closely imitate his art.
Nonetheless, one of Quaid’s old co-stars came out of the woodwork to rag on him for it.
47. His Co-Star Dunked On Him
Elaine Hendrix, who played Meredith Blake in The Parent Trap, quickly took to Twitter after Quaid announced his engagement to Laura Savoie. Hendrix had maybe the perfect caption: She quipped, “Watch out for those twins,” a reference to Lindsay Lohan’s meddling characters in the film—as well as Quaid’s own real-life twins, Thomas and Zoe. Burn, Elaine, burn.
48. He Doesn’t Care About The Public
For his part, Quaid has had a bold response to the public’s disgust. He simply and loudly does not care. When an interviewer asked if the criticism bothered the new couple, Quaid just shrugged and said, “No, it really doesn’t bother us…I can’t even get angry.” This devil-may-care attitude might infuriate people more, but Quaid hasn’t always been so Zen about his ups and downs…
49. He Resents One Of His Exes
Although Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan haven’t been a Hollywood couple for decades, it appears there is still some bad blood between them after all these years. For one, although Ryan claimed that Quaid had cheated on her before she ever took up with Russell Crowe, Quaid vehemently denies these allegations, adding bitterly, “I find it unbelievable that Meg continues publicly to rehash and rewrite the story of our relationship.”
50. He Has A Number One Relationship
Despite Quaid’s annoyance at Ryan’s version of events about their split, there seems to be some part of him that will always carry a bit of a torch for the rom-com darling and mother of one of his sons. He has confessed in recent years that she was “the most successful relationship of my life.” Now, considering it still ended in at least one affair and a divorce…that doesn’t seem great.