Dennis Quaid

Over a 30-year career that has seen its fair share of ups and downs, Dennis Quaid has always managed to keep a sense of perspective about his achievements — and a sense of humor.

“I’m pretty excited about the award,” he says about receiving the ShoWest Male Star of the Year kudo, and then can’t help adding, “It’s one that actors usually get in their 30s, and I’m well past that, but I’ve always been a late bloomer.

“There are so many guys I started out with that either got discouraged and quit or changed careers. So I feel very lucky to still be doing this and to have the same passion for it as when I began.”

Acting always ran in the star’s blood.

“My dad was a frustrated actor and introduced me and my brother to movies,” recalls the 55-year-old who grew up in Houston. “My cousin was Gene Autry, and my great-grandfather was in vaudeville, so we were exposed to all that.”

After studying theater at the U. of Houston, Quaid soon followed older brother Randy to Hollywood, where he struggled for a few years to get roles before landing the part of a working-class tough in “Breaking Away.” “That totally changed my career, and suddenly I began getting offers,” he says.

Since then, the thesp has played a wide range of roles, from Jerry Lee Lewis in “Great Balls of Fire” (“It took awhile for that to grow on me, and now I love it”), to an astronaut in “The Right Stuff” (“I always wanted to be one as a kid”), to a high school baseball coach in “The Rookie” (“It really mirrored my own life, the start of my second act and second chance in life”).

Today, Quaid, who splits his time among L.A., Montana and Austin, Texas, is more in demand than ever, with four films due out this year, including the 3-D “Battle for Terra” and “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.”

His only career regret? That David Lean died before they could collaborate on the director’s long-planned “Nostromo” project. “He’s my favorite director of all time, and I got to spend some time with him. I’ll always treasure that.”

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