Dennis Quaid is feeling nervous these days.
The 64-year-old is set to play President Ronald Reagan in a biopic that’s expected to begin shooting this fall.
Reagan, a former movie star who became America’s 40th president, died in 2004 at age 93 after battling Alzheimer’s.
“[I’m] really, really nervous,” Quaid admitted to Fox News. “When I got offered the role about four months ago, I couldn’t give them an answer. I had a shiver of fear go up my spine. I don’t really feel that I look like Ronald Reagan. But usually, that shiver of fear is a sign to me that I should do something because it takes me out of my comfort zone.”
Despite his initial hesitation, Quaid took on the challenge.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed in June that Mark Joseph, the movie’s producer, met with 50 of Reagan’s friends, confidantes and cabinet members, including his pastor and the surgeon who saved his life after he was shot in 1981, in order to accurately depict his life.
“I’m fascinated by Ronald Reagan,” said Quaid. “And we do share a couple of traits. He had an optimistic, sunny disposition way of looking at life. And we’re both actors. He has an incredible life story. A story that I think most people really don’t know. They think they know the man, but they don’t.”
Quaid also insisted Reagan’s remarkable life and legacy is one that audiences, whether Democrat or Republican, will want to explore.
“The movie is not political,” he explained. “The script is not political. Reagan was a Democrat who turned Republican. And that’s what I like about it. It’s just the story of the man who was Ronald Reagan.”
And Quaid is already studying his famous subject. He recently spent time at the Reagan ranch, the family's vacation home and personal refuge in sunny California.
“When you drive up there, the place is surprisingly small and humble,” he said. “And they left it just as it was when Reagan was there for the last time really. [His clothes along with Nancy's] are in their closets and you just feel like they’re going to come back in 30 minutes. It still has their 1974 house appliances.
"His books in the bookcase are a real treasure for me. I tried to read most of them. And he used to build all the fences and mowed the grass. You could really feel him there.”
But if there’s one thing Quaid isn’t stressing over is his decision to appear on television. He recently shot a commercial for Esurance, a company that sells auto, home and renters insurance to consumers. Quaid, who personally uses Esurance, serves as its new spokesman.
“The last commercial I did on camera was King Kong picking me up off the streets in a truck,” he chuckled. “That was back in 1976 I think… I wanted it to be a company that I believed in… Insurance for most people, and for me as well, can be really boring, a drudge.
"It can be confusing and frustrating. But with their new site, it makes it very easy. So I believe in that. And they’re being very transparent. That shows in the commercials, which was a big reason that I said yes. The commercials are funny. They’re funny to me.”
And while Quaid is keeping busy on the big and small screens, he’s always on a mission to find the next great story to tell. In April, he stirred headlines for his involvement in “I Can Only Imagine,” a faith-based film that quickly became a box office sensation.
The Hollywood Reporter announced that the movie, which was made on a $7 million budget, grossed $71 million.
“I Can Only Imagine" tells the true story behind MercyMe’s chart-topping song that celebrates the power of forgiveness.
Quaid said he wouldn’t think twice to take on another Christian movie.
“I certainly would,” he said. “I don’t necessarily look at them as faith-based… I just look at them as really good stories. When I read a script, that’s what I’m looking for. And ‘I Can Only Imagine’ was an incredible story. So yes, I’m open to that.”
And Quaid, who has been acting in films since 1975, isn’t the only one feeling inspired. His son Jack Quaid, whom he shares with Meg Ryan, has also pursued his own successful Hollywood career.
The “When Harry Met Sally” actress, 56, and Quaid tied the knot in 1991. The former couple finalized their divorce in 2001.
Jack, 26, has appeared in the “Hunger Games” film series opposite Jennifer Lawrence, worked alongside James Bond star Daniel Craig in 2017’s “Logan Lucky” and also starred in the HBO music-fueled series “Vinyl” created by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese.
Quaid told us Jack was never forced to join the family business.
"We instilled in him a sense of independence," said Quaid. "[But] he was always going to be an actor, it seems. From the time he was three, he had a video camera in his hand. He was making his own movies even as a kid.
"Meg and I did not want him to experience the pressures of being a child actor. He studied drama in school, just like I did. Then he went to college at NYU for their film and acting program. Then when it came time, he said he wanted to go out there and act.”
And just like his parents, Jack was determined to pursue Hollywood on his own terms.
“My agent has always wanted to represent him,” said Quaid. “So I offered him my agent. But he said, ‘No dad. I want to do it myself.’ He didn’t want our help, which I could understand. So he went out and did that. He got an agent. His first movie was ‘Hunger Games,’ then he was in Scorsese’s ‘Vinyl.’ So I started to say, ‘Hey Jack! How about a little help here?' [But] I’m really, really proud of him.”