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Dennis Quaid hits his midlife stride

An actor’s career is always marked by ebbs and flows.

Sometimes it’s the moviegoing public’s fickleness. Often an actor picks the wrong projects. And then there is the ego factor -- as when an actor’s inflates to such levels that it overtakes the work.

Dennis Quaid has had his fair share of career fluctuations. Beginning in bit roles in such films as 1975’s “Crazy Mama” and 1977’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” his winning smile and engaging demeanor were first noticed by critics and audiences in 1979’s Oscar-winning “Breaking Away.” He landed memorable roles in the TV movies “Bill” and “Bill: On His Own” and as Gordon Cooper in Phil Kaufman’s “The Right Stuff” (1983). And he proved to be a sex symbol extraordinaire as Det. Remy McSwain in 1987’s “The Big Easy.”

But a drug problem stalled his career in the late 1980s. Though he achieved sobriety in the 1990s, his acting career was overshadowed by then-wife Meg Ryan. While she was starring in such hits as “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” Quaid was toiling in forgettable fare along the lines of “Gang Related” and “Switchback.”

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But since his performance as a crooked attorney in Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 hit, “Traffic,” Quaid, now 50, has had far more flows than ebbs. He hit a home run with the 2002 baseball movie “The Rookie” and received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for his daring turn as a closeted homosexual in 2002’s “Far From Heaven.”

And 2004 as been a particularly busy one for the Houston native. He married for the third time and has starred in four movies -- the misfire “The Alamo,” the disaster blockbuster “The Day After Tomorrow,” the lukewarm remake of the 1965 classic “The Flight of the Phoenix” and the romantic comedy “In Good Company,” which opens Wednesday.

Written and directed by Paul Weitz of “American Pie” and “About a Boy” fame, the film gives Quaid a rare chance to exercise his comedy chops. Even at the half-century mark, Quaid still can turn on the charm. The movie finds Quaid as an executive in a midlife crisis. Not only is his new hotshot boss (Topher Grace -- in a role Quaid might have played 25 years ago) about half his age, the young man is having an affair with his daughter (Scarlett Johansson).


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