Dennis Quaid has returned to the horrors of outer space with his new film Pandorum, which opens today. He plays Lieutenant Payton, one of two space travelers who awake from hypersleep aboard a massive spaceship, only to find that there’s some seriously scary creatures on board with them.
The film’s title actually refers to a syndrome that occurs with prolonged space flight, where one begins to lose their grip on reality. It takes place about 200 years in the future, when Earth is dying and mankind is on their way to another Eden.
Quaid, a veteran actor who’s conquered a range of characters most actors would die for (including Jerry Lee Lewis and Doc Holliday, among many others), has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years, particularly for his turn as General Hawk in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra. We sat down with the man to discuss Pandorum, as well as what’s on the horizon.
CraveOnline: Just a while ago I caught your 2008 "Ellen" appearance, where she had you embarrass yourself, screaming in a Starbuck’s…
Dennis Quaid: Oh, jeez.. (laughs) Yeah, that wasn’t my most comfortable moment.
CraveOnline: Any other YouTube skeletons in the closet? May as well fess up now…
Dennis Quaid: No, no that I know of… thankfully most of the stuff I did that would qualify for YouTube material happened years before YouTube even existed. So I think I’m pretty safe.
CraveOnline: This is the second time you’ve played a spaceman, (the first being Gordon Cooper in the Right Stuff). What drew you to the part? Is it a kind of role that you’d been looking forward to doing?
Dennis Quaid: Well, first and foremost it’s a really original, unique story. When I choose a movie, I’ll ask myself: is this a movie I want to see? And yeah, this was definitely one of those. Payton is a great character to work with, especially the troubles he immediately faces in the film. I really liked that the audience finds out along with the characters in the film what’s going on and who these people are. Payton thinks he knows who he is, but he doesn’t even know that he’s hiding something. He’s in a sort of unconscious denial.
CraveOnline: So let’s walk through this. Payton comes out of a hypersleep for this long space journey in a state of semi-amnesia, and the people who are supposed to reorient you aren’t there…
Dennis Quaid: Right. When you wake up from hypersleep, one of the effects is you don’t know who you are. Not only that, but we don’t know what we’re doing on a ship or even what our mission is. Somebody is supposed to be there to wake us up and fill us in, but they’re not there. And we can’t get anybody on the radio, and we’re locked in a room and we have to get out. And once we do, that’s when everything gets out of control and all hell breaks loose.
CraveOnline: We’re already hearing talk of a sequel…
Dennis Quaid: If the film finds a real audience, Christian already has a trilogy in mind. One story takes place before this movie, and one takes place after.
CraveOnline: It’s not frequent that an actor will buck the traditional trend of peaking in their thirties (younger for women) and scaling back as the years wear on. Did you set out to have such a major resurgence in film through your forties, or was it just a matter of dumb luck?
Dennis Quaid: Dumb luck, one hundred percent. (laughs) Really, I’ve just had a great time these past few years with roles that have gotten a little more attention. I’m just glad to still be here, you know? So many people that I started out with, I couldn’t tell you where they are now. I’ve been very fortunate. Blessed, really.
CraveOnline: Hand-pick your ideal film collaboration.
Dennis Quaid: Wouldn’t that be great? I’m a big fan of The Hangover. Did you see it?
CraveOnline: Yes! Easily the best comedy of the last twenty years.
Dennis Quaid: I think you’re right. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. I’d really like to work with Todd Phillips. I’ve had varying luck with comedy in the past, but I’d really like to give that another go. I don’t know if I’d chase down a part, but if the right thing came along I could certainly see myself stepping into that zone.
CraveOnline: What can you tell us about your next project, Legion? You’re also playing Bill Clinton in The Special Relationship.
Dennis Quaid: Legion was a lot of fun to shoot. It was a real unique apocalypse scenario that takes place in a diner out in the desert. Very much like a drive-in B-movie, but in a good way. As for The Special Relationship, it was a real challenge to play someone so well known. It was written by Peter Morgan, who wrote Frost/Nixon, and it’s about the relationship between Bill Clinton and U.K. prime minister Tony Blair. I wouldn’t have pictured myself as Bill Clinton originally, but that’s part of what drew me to the challenge. You don’t get a much bigger character challenge than Bill.