It's now 15 years since Critics were acclaiming director Todd Haynes' film Far From Heaven as a gay masterpiece. With its 4 Oscar Nominations, this homage to 1950's melodramas stars Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid as the perfect American couple whose life of suburban bliss begins to fracture. For OutUK Ron Dicker talked to Dennis about his role as a pillar of respectability who's really a closet homosexual.

Dennis Quaid in full lip-lock with another man? Macho Dennis Quaid? Featured jock of Everybody's All-American and The Rookie Dennis Quaid?

It was all in a day's work for the actor, who more than ever has come to appreciate a day's work in the film industry.

After a love affair with cocaine went sour, a marriage to Meg Ryan dissolved in tabloid hell, and a career in distress, what's a little homosexual onscreen kiss for a movie he believes in?

Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven
"You're nervous, as you are for any love scene," he said recently of his Far From Heaven departure. "On the first take, we were like a couple of football players."

In the critically revered "Far From Heaven, Quaid's character, Frank, begins to explore Hartford's underground gay scene circa the late 1950s. The smooching interlude in his office sets Far From Heaven on its melodramatic way. As a result, Frank's wife (Julianne Moore) seeks solace with the black gardener (Dennis Haysbert) as the taboos of the era pile up like the brilliant leaves of a New England autumn, in which the film is set. The elements evoke the Technicolor soap operas of the time, without a wink from director Todd Haynes.

"I'll tell people what the movie was about, and they'd laugh because it does sound like a sendup. But it's done with such sincerity that there is no irony," Quaid said.

Quaid, who was 48 at the time of the film, insisted that he did not wrestle with playing a gay man. If the role was right, it was right, he said. He found familiar ground in Frank's dual existence.

"I was addicted to cocaine and living a lie about that," Quaid said. "It's something I did for years. So I can relate to what Frank is going through. He's a person living an inauthentic life."

Quaid asked filmgoers not to rush to judgment. "Frank isn't heroic or pathetic," he said. "I think he's an ordinary person coming to grips with who he really is. Everything was kept so under the carpet back then that you didn't talk about being gay. It was a disease. He goes to a doctor to cure him."

Sipping water in a Toronto coffee shop, Quaid tried to keep the table from wobbling. Squeezing a napkin under the short leg didn't work, so he gave up. He has done a better job of balancing his life.

Quaid seemed to conquer both personal and career fronts around the time of this film. He also starred in The Rookie, a come-from-nowhere hit, in which he played a high school teacher who became a major league pitcher. Quaid said the film connected with audiences because it was a true story.

He also completed The Devil's Throat in which he and Sharon Stone were a couple trying to patch up their marriage by moving to the country. Quaid also headed for the top of the marquee as a scientist who tries to save the world from global warming in The Day After Tomorrow, and he has played Sam Houston in The Alamo.

"The Rookie' was about second chances in life, and I'm getting one, too," he told us.

Quaid's personal life took a turn for the calmer after his divorce from Ryan. They share joint custody of their 10-year-old son, Jack, and have no stake in each other's film profits. Quaid said they are amicable and that the settling of the matter has allowed him to navigate his latest comeback without gossips on his tail.

"I had a helluva run there," he said. "For a while, it was pretty ugly."

And now?

"I'm coming from a great place, better than I've ever come from," said Quaid, who is involved with a non-Hollywood "civilian" after splitting up with a Texas real estate agent. "I feel like I know myself more. I know what I can take. I'm a lot more patient."

He once had the patience of a bucking bronco. Armed with a boyish smile and good looks that spoke of dust and cowboy boots, Quaid followed big brother Randy from their native Houston to Hollywood. The younger Quaid made his Screen Actors Guild card worth something as a townie in the cycling charmer Breaking Away (1979), then served notice he was leading-man material as a swaggering spaceman in The Right Stuff(1983).

Success came easy. Then the excesses of the 1980s became candy in a candy jar for Quaid. He developed a voracious cocaine habit. He took a year off to recover, and Hollywood gave him another unwanted year off before Quaid began a decade of rebuilding his career. Meaty roles that he tackled with panache in such films as The Big Easy (1987) and Great Balls of Fire! (1989) rarely presented themselves in the '90s.

The highly acclaimed Far From Heaven presented opportunity for Quaid to be a leading man and to star in one of the most respected gay movies of the last decade.

Maybe a kiss isn't just a kiss.

"I know this won't last forever," he said. "Careers have ups and downs. I've been doing this for 25 years, and I'd like to be around for another 25."

Ron Dicker/EPN

You can but a copy of FAR FROM HEAVEN on DVD from Amazon.


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