Interview with Dennis Quaid

Star of “I Can Only Imagine”

Dallas, Texas, February 24, 2018

 

 

How did it feel playing the bad guy?

 

DQ:  To play the bad guy in a film is usually the most fun, but that's when it's like one of the comic-book movies.  This is a true story.  I don't see Arthur as a bad guy.  I see him as a person who was a product of his own circumstances growing up.  Probably had an abusive father himself....Myself, I'd never heard the song, even though I'm a Christian, raised in a Baptist church in Houston.  So when I was sent the script and the song, I first read the script.  And that's how I choose what movies I want to do.  When I read that script for that first time, that's the only time I'm going to be an audience member, as a first-time experience of it.  It was such a powerful story, being the truth.  And a very difficult role. We were walking a line with this.  It's a story about redemption, after walking through hell-fire.  For both of them.  And I was so touched.  And then when I heard the cd, I can see why it's the biggest Christian song ever.  Because when you hear the song, you're not listening to Bart's story.  It becomes your story.  You relate it to something in your life. Everybody has some hole in their heart.  And you don't really have to be a Christian to hear the song and make it personal to yourself.  And I hope that audiences feel the same way about the movie.  It's about hope and inspiration. 

 

What has it taught you about the difficult relationships in your life?

 

DQ:  What I love about acting is that I'm fascinated by what makes people tick.  Getting down to the root of who they are: why do they walk this way, talk this way, what's behind it?  Arthur, and I think the overwhelming majority of abusive parents, were abused kids.  And so this is the life they know as normal.  And you add to that your own life experience, your stilted, stunted dreams, and you transfer those to your children.  You carry on that chain.  It's a wonderful story because both Bart and Arthur were able to break that chain; I think through divine intervention---which also comes with human willingness.  My Dad was a fantastic Dad; a frustrated actor who never made it.  That was a key reason my brother and I both became actors.  My Dad wasn't abusive, though in the 50's and 60's you get the belt every once in a while.  He wasn't very good at it, to tell you the truth.  But he was ignored as a child himself, or at least largely ignored---whether it was the Depression, being in the Navy, whatever; I don't want to judge anybody----but my Dad broke that chain.  And I have a lot of respect for him for that.  I really do.  I remember walking into a place with my father—my Aunt owned a bar on Galveston Beach.  My grandfather was in there—my Dad's Dad, and he went over to greet him, but his father didn't know who he was.  My Dad made light of it, but I could see the hurt.  (gets a little choked up) Anyway, he didn't pass that on to my brother and I.

            I've played a lot of real people that I got to know.  Gordo Cooper, the astronaut. Jimmy from The Rookie—he was on the set every day.  Jerry Lee Lewis was on the set every day.  I feel a responsibility to get them right.  It's their story.  If it were my story, I would want them to be authentic at least in the sense of emotionally.  I imagine it was tough for Bart to watch, so between shots I would ask him if I got it right---for him, first, and then everyone else.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association