Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Observations at THE MINT w/ H.D. Stanton and Dennis Quaid

Sitting at "The Mint" waiting for the traditional Saturday night performance by Harry Dean Stanton, I caught a glimpse of Dennis Quaid with friends in a shadowed booth. Soon after Harry Dean's usual entrance, balancing a cigarette in one hand and tumbler of booze in the other, he noticed Quaid. Not unaccustomed to fellow actor's catching his act, Harry Dean invited Dennis to share stage with him for a couple tunes. And perhaps, like others in the audience, Stanton was aware of Quaid's recent unsettling breakup with longtime love, Meg Ryan, during her highly publicized fling with Russell Crowe. Whatever, the two artists warbled through a duo before Stanton sensed the audience mood and generously stepped aside, handing Dennis an acoustic guitar and leaving him in a single, smoke-filled spotlight. As Stanton nursed his bourbon in the shadows, Quaid's glistening face dropped as he hit a few chords. Then he looked into that light that seemed to touch his broken heart, and soloed with ease into the opening lyrics of "Gloria." It was, as they say, "a moment" not missed by anyone in THE MINT. The room fell silent as we watched a simple man sing a simple song with cracks of pain etched between the lyrics. Nor was the moment lost on on Harry Dean, whose keen sense of "playing a room" overtook his artistic generosity as he prepared to reclaim the spotlight. At the final chord, Stanton took stage, took the guitar, and invited Quaid to enjoy the rest of the show. For myself, I couldn't help recalling the last time I'd shared terrain with Quaid in the early stages of location casting for COME SEE THE PARADISE in Portland, Oregon. Shari and I worked in the Japanese community taking polaroid shots of potential background players. We worked long hours to organize faces from which Alan Parker would eventually populate the Dennis Quaid film. And it was at this time, in Portland, that I first read my friend Jenny Wingfield's script THE MAN IN THE MOON. The script was in its final option year with producer Mark Rydell, who originally optioned the script as a vehicle for a young actress now too old to play the lead role, Dani. From that initial reading of the poignant story, the overwhelming reality was that the young actress who would portray Dani would have to be amazing. And so it was, that on that night at "The Mint," watching an older, wiser Dennis Quaid open his soul through a gentle song, I arrived full circle from my initial encounter with THE MAN IN THE MOON and with the amazing young actress who portrayed "Dani," an unknown 14 year old girl from Nashville, Reese Witherspoon.

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