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Dennis Quaid Learned How to Shake His Characters Off At Home After Portraying Jerry Lee Lewis (Exclusive)

Dennis Quaid has learned a lesson that it’s best to leave your acting gigs on set.

Before taking on the role of pianist Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1989 film Great Balls of Fire!, Quaid, 70, exclusively recalled to Us Weekly that he would spend days focused on his character.

“I had a year to prepare for this role and so I sat at the piano for 12 hours a day for a year, which is easy if you’re on cocaine,” he shared with Us on Friday, April 12, while supporting his new movie The Long Game. “The piano is something else. And he is, he’s one of the greatest piano players ever, ever. It’s so athletic the way he plays. And what a guy.”

Lewis was open about his struggles with alcohol and cocaine before his death at his Mississippi home in October 2022. He was 87.

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After portraying the musician on the big screen, Quaid himself checked into rehab – or “cocaine school” as he’s referred to it in past interviews – for cocaine addiction. During his initial recovery, the actor married Meg Ryan in 1991 and had their son, Jack Quaid, 31. The pair divorced in 2001. (Quaid is also dad to twins Thomas and Zoe, 16, with ex-wife Kimberly Buffington.)

One thing he learned from treatment is you can’t have work lead your full life.

“Can’t bring it home,” Quaid said. “Cocaine school taught me that. So you’ve got to let go of stuff.”

There is one element of Lewis’ character that Quaid can’t seem to shake. “The good part of playing him is that I still play piano,” he said, “and continued.”

Dennis Quaid Learned How to Shake His Characters Off At Home After Portraying Jerry Lee Lewis
Dennis Quaid in ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ 1989. Cover Images

He’s also been able to continue his successful career in Hollywood. A return to his Christian faith has been a crucial part of Quaid’s sobriety.

When given the opportunity to star in The Long Game and focus on the true-life story of five Mexican-American youths who triumphed against all odds in their pursuit of a Texas State High School Golf Championship trophy, Quaid couldn’t say no.

“I don’t think people go to the movies to see things. They go to feel things and there is hope in this film,” Quaid shared about the family-friendly flick. “I want them to be entertained, number one. And I want them to see themselves when they were kids or whatever. Everybody has an experience that they can relate to in this movie.”

Days after celebrating his 70th birthday on April 9, Quaid remains excited about his future both at home and in Hollywood.

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Married to Laura Savoie since 2020, The Parent Trap actor looks around at his life and is filled with gratitude.

“Life really gets easier as you get by,” he explained. “You enjoy it more because you’ve been through things before and so you don’t get so emotionally worked up about it and you could say, ‘Well, this is coming and it’s going to pass.’ Then the good times are just great. I really appreciate every day. I’ve never been happier to tell you the truth.”

The Long Game is in theaters now.

With reporting by Christina Garibaldi 

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