When I ask if there is another role in the film he would have wanted to play, he responds, “When you hear of the Alamo, you think of Davy Crockett. But Billy Bob really [is] Davy Crockett. He’s a hillbilly movie star, and that’s what Davy Crockett was at the time,” referring to the hero’s legendary persona.
Filming The Alamo— and before that D.O.A, Flesh and Bone, and The Rookie—has brought Quaid back to Austin time and time again. According to Beau Holden, his personal assistant of over 15 years, Quaid has lived in the same Westlake area house every time he has filmed in Austin. “I am the one-man entourage for Dennis: chief of staff and also water boy,” says Holden. Originally Richard Gere’s assistant for two years, he and Quaid met when Holden was to assist director Taylor Hackford on Quaid’s 1988 hit, Everybody’s All American. He and Quaid have been together ever since. In the entertainment industry, the same personal assistant for a decade and a half should be given a Lifetime Achievement award. “We’ve been through the good, the bad, and the ugly together,” says Beau. “When the tables turned, and I went through a messy divorce, Dennis was really there for me. He is a great friend.”
Based in Los Angeles and Montana, Quaid enjoys working in Austin: “Texas has a really great film commission—and Austin is really the best place to shoot. There is such diverse land around the city. You go east, and you get the forests. Go west and get all the hills. It’s better than just about anywhere.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this is such a great music town.
When he takes a break from filming, he performs with his band, The Sharks—a name picked by his son. “It’s a good thing he wasn’t into dinosaurs at the time, or that’s what we’d be called,” says Quaid. About the music scene here, he says: “I think this is the best music capital in the United States. Music is very eclectic here, and the people are devoted to it. There are longtime fans of specific bands and people are not so much into the popular culture here; it’s more about what’s really good.”
The Sharks’ style is more Americana rock. “When I am working, we play every few weeks. When I am not working in L.A., we try to play every week there. Here, we like to play at Antone’s; we always have a good time. We just played with Los Lobos at Stubbs. We also were at Gruene Hall near New Braunfels, where we shot Flesh and Bone.” Quaid’s greatest musical inspirations are classic artists from years past: “When I was growing up the Beatles were big,” says Dennis. “I also like Elvis and Hank Williams.” Quaid has written songs for three of his films: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981), Tough Enough (1983), and The Big Easy (1987).
While he’s in Austin, he enjoys some of the area’s best restaurants. “I like Trulucks, Sullivan’s, Kenichi, and anyplace that serves barbecue. I also like Fran’s Hamburgers—I just had one this morning for breakfast,” he says. And when he’s not working, playing music, or eating, there’s golf.
“Golf can be addictive,” says Quaid. “I took it up about twelve years ago when I gave up cocaine. I traded one addiction for another.” The healthier addiction has paid off. He is actually a very good golfer who has played with the likes of Tiger Woods and admits he plays as often as he can. “One of my best games was with Steve Croft of 60 Minutes, in a Long Island tournament—and my foursome in L.A. includes James Garner and Mac Davis,” says Quaid. Plato had a point when he wrote that a person can learn more about someone with an hour of play than a lifetime of conversation. Quaid agrees: “Golf is a great chance to get to know other people. You can really find out what they are like. I also like getting out there and concentrating on the white ball going into that little hole and forgetting about the world around me.”
Quaid recently decided to use his love of golf to benefit children. Quaid and his celebrity friends will be playing to benefit the Austin Children’s Shelter, Austin Children’s Hospital, and the New Orleans-based International Children’s Hospital (his national charity). “It’s a great organization,” says Quaid. “Ninety cents out of every dollar goes to the cause. When I can, I go down to places in Central America to help them build their buildings. I like working with my hands.”
So what’s next? His Hollywood stock is trading well, not only with his work on The Alamo, but also his upcoming big budget films Day After Tomorrow and The Devil's Throat, to be released next year. “I’d like to direct again some day, but it takes eighteen months out of your life to do that,” says Quaid, referring toEverything Rises, the 1998 TNT made-for-TV movie he directed and starred in. No matter what his next choice of film or directorial roles, count on Quaid’s inevitable return to Austin to film another project sometime in the future.