Tag Archives: Dennis Quaid

Behind the Scenes of ‘Vegas’ With Producer Arthur Sarkissian

CBS takes us back to the 1960s tonight (9/25) with the launch of “Vegas” — starring Dennis Quaid as legendary Las Vegas lawman Ralph Lamb and Michael Chiklis as a casino owner fresh from the Chicago mob scene. You’ll recall that last season saw the launch of two similarly ‘sixties-set shows — “Pan Am” and “Playboy Club” — each of which wound up dying painful deaths.

“Vegas” will not suffer such a fate, producer Arthur Sarkissian is convinced, because his show “has so much more going for it.”
He points out that in “Vegas,” the era is secondary to the story and characters. “If you just show the period and pounce on people’s heads with the clothes, the music — if you elevate all of that, you have nothing. It’s the story. It’s always the story. I don’t care what they say, they can put superstars in a movie, fifty actors, I don’t care. If the story work, it works. This is basically the world of the Old West meets ‘The Godfather,’ that’s the core of it. I’ve never seen ‘The Searchers’ meets ‘The Godfather.’ It’s a world I don’t think anyone’s explored really well.”
Thus, if “Vegas” moves along into the Rat Pack era, viewers might see references or even depictions of Frank Sinatra et. al — but only as part of the authentic scenery. “Whoever is there, is there. We’ll stay true to it, but nobody is thinking about doing this gimmicky, like doing the things with fins on the cars, shake rattle and roll. I just want to tell the stories and be true to the characters.”
Sarkissian, the man who brought us the “Rush Hour” movies and other films including “While You Were Sleeping,” worked for years to bring Lamb’s story to screen, and brought in author-screenwriter Nick Pileggi (“Casino,” “Goodfellas”). Through the twists and turns of development, at one point he thought they would make two features out of it. Eventually, the saga that was too big and unwieldy for one, or even two two-hour movies landed at CBS.
Sarkissian admits, “We didn’t even think that Dennis would be interested in a TV show. His name was on the list, but we said, ‘He’s not going to do it.’ And then we got a call from his agent, who said that he’d like to meet. That’s how it started. He came aboard, and he is so good as Ralph Lamb. And Michael was always somebody that we were always very interested in, and of course CBS loves him.”
Chiklis did have some concerns going into his role as Chicago mobster-turned-Vegas casino owner Vincent Savino — and met with the shows producers and creators, “Nick Pileggi, Greg Walker, myself, Cathy Konrad and Jim Mangold. He basically talked about what he wanted to see from his end, his side, his world, which was music to everybody’s ears. He didn’t want Savino to be this thug. He didn’t want him to be this mobster killer who just shoots people. He can be very compassionate. He’s extremely strong with words. He’s a businessman. He’s not a gangster per se — but he really is, because if it came down to shooting somebody, he wouldn’t even blink an eye to take care of it. But there would always be a reason. Michael’s point of character was very strong and extremely valuable to the show. I think he and Dennis compliment each other wonderfully. The chemistry is great and that’s something that, you know, you can’t create or go out and find, or force.”
Meanwhile, Sarkissian continues moving forward on the feature side. He has his planned remake of Jean-Pierre Melville’s crime drama, “The Red Circle,” heading toward production. The script is in rewrite now, and “as soon as I get it, we’ll go out and cast it, and hopefully start in July in Hong Kong and Macau.”
And as for the latest chapter of his Chris Tucker-Jackie Chan franchise, “Rush Hour 4”? Referring to director Brett Ratner, Sarkissian says, “We’re talking to writers and we want to make sure that Chris and Jackie and Brett are on board with the storyline and everything.”

Sarkissian doesn’t know much about that story, but “I know it’s not going to be just the two of them going to another city and trying to solve something. I know it’s got to be more than that,” he says. “I always say, my best example what they did with a franchise after the third or fourth was ‘Fast and Furious,’ when they did ‘Fast 5,’ they took the characters everybody loved and planted them in the world of ‘Ocean’s 11’ — a heist story, so it gave it new blood. They brought in a couple of new faces and it just elevated everything. It’s a good example to keep in mind. You don’t just sit back and rest on your laurels and say, ‘Hey, the first two did great.’ You just have to give it the adrenaline all the time.”

Crusading Quaid Takes a Breather

Dennis Quaid

Dennis Quaid, wife Kimberly and their two-year-old twins will be summering at their home in Big Sky Country — Montana. He’s looking forward to some down time with the family after a hectic Spring that saw him wrap production of the big-screen ‘Soul Surfer,’ carry out promotional chores for his ‘The Special Relationship’ movie, and do a full court media press for the cause that’s at the forefront of his mind — patient safety advocacy.

You may recall that in 2007, at 12 days old, twins Thomas and Zoe Quaid were accidentally given an overdose of the blood thinner heparin — 10,000 units instead of the recommended 10 units for babies — and the following two days literally fought for their lives. Since then, the Quaids sued the drug manufacturer they blamed for poor labeling. They started a foundation to improve medical procedures. They learned frightening statistics about the numbers of mistakes made in hospitals. Dennis has made numerous appearances domestically and overseas, including doing the Discovery Channel’s documentary series, ‘Chasing Zero: Winning the War on Healthcare Harm.’ The Quaids’ foundation has now partnered with The Texas Medical Institute of Technology (TMIT) as their crusade continues.

Gratifyingly, the work has already yielded results. At L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where the Quaid twins’ ordeal took place, bedside bar coding is now in operation. (Patients have a bar code attached to their names, and their medicine is scanned and checked through the hospital computer system, prior to ingestion.)

‘We’re making some progress,’ he tells us. ‘A lot of people die from accidents in hospitals — an estimated 100,000 a year. Medication mistakes, hospital-acquired infections…and it’s needless, because actually, we have the technology to prevent them.’

Clinton-Blair Film Could Never Have Gotten Made for Big Screen, Says ‘Special Relationship’ Director Richard Loncraine

Dennis Quaid, Michael Sheen "The Special Relationship" HBO photo

Esteemed filmmaker Richard Loncraine reports that his ‘The Special Relationship’ movie — debuting on HBO tonight (5/29) — is being released theatrically in countries around the globe, save for the United Kingdom, where it will be shown on the BBC.

‘It will be interesting to see how a cinema audience accepts this subject,’ he says of the drama that sheds behind-the-scenes light on the relationship between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the ’90s. ‘Is it the kind of film people will spend money on a babysitter to go see?’

With dazzling performances by Dennis Quaid as Clinton, Michael Sheen as Blair, Hope Davis as Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Helen McCrory as Cherie Blair, ‘The Special Relationship’ will undoubtedly be remembered at awards time. However, Loncraine doubts it could have gotten made for the big screen ‘in the present studio or independent film environment.’ He feels the same way about his Emmy-laden ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Gathering Storm’ as well. ‘This is the fourth film I’ve done for HBO and they’ve been a real pleasure,’ adds the director, whose feature credits include such fare as ‘The Missionary,’ ‘Richard III,’ ‘Firewall’ and ‘My One and Only.’

He candidly tells us that ‘The Special Relationship’ ‘really wasn’t much of a challenge for me, to be honest. It was an odd one for me. Peter Morgan decided directing wasn’t for him on this project, and I came in four weeks before principle photography,’ he says, referring to the play and screenwriter, who’d been planning to make his directing debut with the cable film. ‘Usually, directors have been working six months on a production before shooting starts, the last three months of which are very stressful and involve things like not enough money, or arguing with the studio. I didn’t have any of that, so I wasn’t as exhausted as directors usually are.’

He points out that HBO insisted everything be vetted for accuracy, which he did find demanding, especially since, ‘I’m not a particularly political animal.’ Much of the material was new to him, in fact. ‘I was struck by the realization that without Clinton’s infidelity, the world be a different place today. Obviously it was harmful to his wife and family, but it wasn’t like he declared war on South America. It’s stunning to think that such a relatively small event had such enormous repercussions from then on.’

MEANINGFUL DAY: Joe Mantegna, who marks his ninth year of hosting PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert before a crowd of hundreds of thousands on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol this weekend, has been met with much appreciation from veterans, active service members and their loved ones. But he’s not one to take thank-yous for his participation in the music-filled event that celebrates and memorializes the sacrifices made by troops past and present. ‘I mean, look, there’s no reason to thank us. The whole point of this is to thank them. I realize this is probably the most important thing I do all year,’ says the ‘Criminal Minds’ star.

‘The fact I have a career and have a good life and all that is due to the fact that we have people in the military who’ve been out there protecting us. There’s nothing to thank us about. I’m glad to do it.’

For the fifth year in a row, he co-hosts with pal Gary Sinise. This year’s event (check local listings) will include Lionel Richie, Brad Paisley, Blythe Danner, Dennis Haysbert, Yolanda Adams and Colin Powell.

THE VROOM VROOM ROOM: Supermodel-turned-super mogul Kathy Ireland has now turned to the world of super motors.  She has become the most recent celeb (David Letterman and the late Paul Newman come to mind) to become part owner of a major racing team — and car 43 will be carrying her brand out onto the Indie 500 this Sunday (5/30) with none other than John Andretti at the wheel.  The Kathy Ireland Home division of her Kathy Ireland WorldWide design and marketing empire is joining racing legend Richard Petty and Window World as sponsors of this top Memorial Day 500 entry.

Dennis Quaid Feels Empathy Toward Bill Clinton

Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton "The Special Relationship" HBO photo

For anyone who lived through the Clinton administration, Dennis Quaid’s performance in HBO’s May 29 “The Special Relationship” just might evoke a shiver or two. Although he doesn’t – by conscious choice – look like a twin of William Jefferson Clinton, he inhabits the role of the 42nd President down to the set of his mouth in angry moments.

And yet, Quaid admits, “I was kind of shocked when they asked me to do the role. It just seemed such a daunting task – getting the voice, the mannerisms.” However, he tells us, “I have a philosophy that sometimes you should do the thing that frightens you most, because it’s probably the thing you need to do to overcome your fear. Fear is a great motivator.”
The hardest part was “just capturing his spirit,” says Quaid. “I didn’t want to do a Saturday night skit of him. I wanted to make him into a human being. I was lucky I had four months to prepare,” he adds.

Quaid, who’s had his own relationship with Clinton — including several rounds of golf – admits he’s thought quite a bit about how the ex-Commander in Chief will feel about his portrayal and the film in general.

“Better me than Darrel Hammond,” he says with a smile. Then, more seriously, he adds, “I’ve seen the movies (playwright/screenwriter) Peter Morgan has done before – ‘Frost/Nixon,’ ‘The Queen…’ I felt they were empathetic portrayals, that I could understand these people a little more after seeing them. That was obviously an attraction. At the same time, I know certainly there are certain part of my life I wouldn’t want to have made into movie, and I understand the sensitivity involved in having those portrayed,” adds Quaid, who knows what it’s like to go through the tabloid grinder via the all-too-public ending of his marriage to Meg Ryan and his substance abuse problems of the 1980s.

“The Special Relationship” focuses on the relationship between Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (again played to perfection by Michael Sheen), and does go into the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal that led to Clinton’s impeachment. Quaid says, however, that “I think I have a lot more respect for him now than I did before playing him. He was already the smartest man I’d met. What he was able to accomplish in his Presidency is really remarkable – even during the scandal.”

‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ Punishing Duty for All-Star Cast

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Paramount’s big-screen, big-budget “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” had a big, grueling production to go with it, and a big, punishing training program for the actors – including Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Marlon Wayans and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

The actor known as Mr. Eko to fans of “Lost” – and as Wally as a schoolboy back home in London — tells us that in his role of  ordnance expert Heavy Duty, at one point he shoots a 120-lb. cannon “that’s normally strapped to a helicopter.  They don’t call him Heavy Duty for nothing.  Everything on that film was heavy duty, man.”

He also found himself “suspended on hinges and strings from a spacecraft, firing 5-600 rounds per second.  And for all that pay, you have to look good, not sweat, say the line on cue and not fire over the words.  You have to keep a cool head.”

Adewale and the rest of the team got into fighting form “with the same outfit who trained the guys for ‘The 300,‘” in the Simi Valley near Los Angeles.  “It was a rigorous training schedule that started two months before the movie and believe me, these guys are serious.  To do a scene where you’re jumping over a wall 15 times, carrying a gun and wearing a suit that’s 30-40 lbs., you’ve got to be really prepared.  I certainly had to shed a lot of fat and build up the muscles.  After the training session, you’d do stunt fighting, and then if you were a really good boy they’d let you go play with the guns.”

Yes, he loved it.  “Come on, it’s every boy’s childhood dream to play a superhero and fight bad guys,” he says.  “This isn’t Shakespeare.  It’s a big fun adventure ride with sexy ladies and powerful men.”

“G.I. Joe,” due Aug. 7, boasts an ensemble including Sienna Miller and Arnold Vosloo — plus star cameos by the likes of Adawale’s other “The Mummy Returns” cast mate, Brendan Fraser.  The Stephen Sommers flick turns “the Joes” into an elite, international peacekeeping unit.  “It’s really perfect for the world we live in today, especially to give the franchise longevity in the future,” says Adewale, who’s signed for three pictures, like the other principles.

“I asked Steve, ‘Can I have my accent, play my character English?’ and he said, ‘Okay, you can be the British sergeant,” notes Adewale.  “So I got to have funny British one-liners.  There’s a phrase, ‘Bloody hell!  Bloody hell!’ that comes out at interesting moments.”