For fans of Vacation’s cousin Eddie, it might be a shock to hear the name Randy Quaid and ”Academy Award” in the same sentence. But the 55-year-old Texan cut his teeth in acclaimed films from Peter Bogdanovich and Hal Ashby, earning a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in 1973’s The Last Detail. Now, with a pivotal supporting role in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and turns in pitch-black comedy The Ice Harvest and Milos Forman’s upcoming Goya’s Ghosts, Quaid is aiming to get back to his estimable roots.
Brokeback co-writer Larry McMurtry also scripted one of your first films, The Last Picture Show. I’ve done, gosh, four things with him, and when you work with people again, there’s a comfort zone. I just really loved Annie Proulx’s story, and I’m glad Ang offered me this role ‘cause the whole project has a special place for me.
Some actors are baffled by Lee’s understated style. Ang doesn’t give you a lot of input; he lets you go on your way. He might come up to me in his quiet way and just give a suggestion for a color he’d like to see. But he also doesn’t leave a take until he’s satisfied, and if he’s satisfied, you know it’s good.
What kind of director is Forman? He’ll almost do the performance for you. It might be a language thing. He’s not sure if he’s making himself clear, so he wants to show you. But I love working with good directors. I went through a period where I got away from that.
You mean the Cousin Eddie years? I came to a crossroads early on, where Lorne Michaels, out of the blue, asked me to [join the cast of Saturday Night Live]. I started doing more comedies after that, and I enjoyed doing them. But it took me away from doing the kind of dramatic parts I wanted to do.