Family & Companions
Actor Randy Quaid earned notice for his characterizations of good-natured bumblers and hapless hillbillies in many acclaimed 1970s films before going on to enjoy a long career that netted him Academy, Golden Globe, and Emmy Award nominations. Following his Oscar nomination for playing opposite Jack Nicholson as a pair of sailors on leave in Hal Ashby's superb "The Last Detail" (1973) as well as a string of movies with some of the best filmmakers of the era, Quaid raised his comedic profile with "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983) and its many sequels, as well as starring roles in the unsettling indie comedy "Parents" (1989) and the Farrelly Brothers' slapstick bowling outing, "Kingpin" (1996). Always adept at lending a dark twist to his charismatic roles as criminals, sheriffs, and politicians, Quaid was aligned with the occasional blockbuster like "Days of Thunder" (1990), "Independence Day" (1996), and "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), while consistently earning praise for portraying larger-than-life figures like President Lyndon B. Johnson and Elvis' showy manager Col. Tom Parker in television movies. The towering, bear-like Texan leveraged his size to be both menacing and unexpectedly gentle and never failed to make an impression during his 40-plus years on the screen.
Born Randall Rudy Quaid on Oct. 1, 1950, Quaid and his younger brother Dennis - who would go on to be the heartthrob actor of the two - were raised in the suburbs of Houston, TX. While a drama student at the University of Houston, Quaid was discovered by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, who gave him an uncredited role in his directorial debut, "Targets" (1968). But it was Bogdanovich's adaptation of Larry McMurtry's "The Last Picture Show" (1971) that positioned the director as one of the top filmmaker's of the era, and Quaid as an engaging newcomer with promise. The ensemble piece about post-war life in a small Texas town earned an Oscar for Best Picture. A successful combination in their first outing, Quaid reteamed with Bogdanovich for a small role as a Texas professor in the screwball comedy "What's Up, Doc?" (1972), and a third time in the director's superb Depression-set "Paper Moon" (1973), in which he cut a lumbering and mean hillbilly who gets in the way of a con man on the run (Ryan O'Neal). After his success with Bogdanovich, Quaid landed his first leading role and scored an Oscar nomination for his portrait of a naïve young sailor who spends a wild weekend with wizened Navy men Jack Nicholson and Otis Young en route to serving a jail sentence for a petty crime in "The Last Detail" (1973), from filmmaker Hal Ashby.
Having established himself as a versatile, talented character player in only a few short years, Quaid worked steadily throughout the decade with supporting roles in the Charles Bronson prison break flick, "Breakout" (1975), Hal Ashby's biopic of Woody Guthrie, "Bound for Glory" (1976) and an ill-fated role alongside Marlon Brando and Jack Nicolson in the Arthur Penn Western, "The Missouri Breaks" (1976). In 1977, Quaid offered an incredibly intense performance as an American incarcerated in a Turkish prison in Alan Parker's "Midnight Express" (1978), which was also an Oscar nominee for Best Picture. Quaid further showcased his gift for elevating material when he portrayed a top tier cult member in the TV movie "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (CBS, 1980) before joining his younger brother Dennis onscreen for the first time in Walter Hill's Western, "The Long Riders" (1980). Quaid's run of outsider characters in heavy dramas continued with back-to-back TV projects "Of Mice and Men," (NBC, 1981) and "Inside the Third Reich" (ABC, 1982), and on stage in Sam Shepard's "True West" at New York's Cherry Lane Theater.
During the 1980s, Quaid showed even more impressive versatility than before, creating an instant comedy classic with his bumbling but earnest Cousin Eddie in the family road comedy, "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), directed by Harold Ramis. The film was one of the biggest hits of an impressive year, with his stomach-churning, yet hilarious portrait of the white trash Griswold relative who teaches his daughter to French kiss and has no problem asking Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold for favors and money. He picked up an Emmy nomination for his supporting work as Stanley's poker buddy Mitch in an ABC TV production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1984) before Quaid went on to star in "The Golem" at the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1984. But Quaid's subtle flair for comedy was beginning to take hold with audiences, and following a supporting role as an eccentric Vietnam vet in the teen comedy "The Wild Life" (1984) and as a pro baseball player in Hal Ashby's romantic comedy, "The Slugger's Wife" (1985), Quaid was unexpectedly made a cast member on a season of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). The notoriously unpopular season unveiled a new cast of largely untested comic performers, including Quaid's 17-year-old "Vacation" co-star Anthony Michael Hall, and its losing chemistry led to the show's brief cancellation. Not surprisingly, none of the players except for Jon Lovitz was asked to return the following season.
Quaid quickly rebounded when the Texan earned a second Emmy nomination and took home a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the larger-than-life President Lyndon Johnson in "LBJ: The Early Years" (NBC, 1987). He starred as a pro golfer on the HBO series "Dead Solid Perfect" (1988) and following a pair of oddball character roles in comedic flops like Ramis' "Caddyshack II" (1988) and "Moving" (1988), starring a long-past-his-comedic prime Richard Pryor. He reprised clueless Cousin Eddie in the blockbuster holiday sequel, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989) - which reinvigorated the franchise that had taken critical and commercial hits with the prior sequel, "National Lampoon's European Vacation" (1985). In fact, Christmas at the Griswold's - the only time the family never left their home - became almost as popular as the original, with Cousin Eddie's junked out RV and questionable fashion choices bringing the house down. The same year, the Independent Spirit Awards nominated Quaid for his wonderfully sly performance as a cannibalistic suburban father in Bob Balaban's super dark comedy, "Parents" (1989). While shooting "Bloodhounds of Broadway" (1989), Quaid met former model-turned-production assistant Evi Motolanez and the pair were married after only a matter of months. On screen, Quaid had perfected a lucrative formula of alternating between comedy and drama, scoring a critical success with the sharp, little-seen caper "Quick Change" (1990), as bank robber Bill Murray's bewildered accomplice, and reprising his character Lester Marlow in "Texasville" (1990), Bogdanovich's years-later disappointing sequel to "The Last Picture Show."
Following an unlikable role as a crass racing promoter in the Tom Cruise hit, "Days of Thunder" (1990), Quaid briefly starred on his own sitcom, "Davis Rules" (ABC, 1991; CBS, 1991-92), as a harried father and elementary school principal. After the fact-based crime drama "Murder in the Heartland" (ABC, 1993), Quaid appeared in director Ron Howard's take on 24 hours in the life of a struggling city tabloid, "The Paper" (1994), in which he was convincing as a rumpled staff reporter, and "Bye Bye, Love" (1995), where he offered a nice turn as a divorced father coping with the dating world and experiencing the "date from hell" (Janeane Garofalo). On television, Quaid portrayed famed Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin in the 1995 miniseries "Streets of Laredo" (USA), scripted by Larry McMurtry, and provided comic relief as a drunken crop duster who joins the fight against invading aliens in "Independence Day" (1996), Roland's Emmerich's action blockbuster. The same year, Quaid offered one of his funniest starring turns when he teamed with Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson to play an Amish man caught up with a bowling hustler in the Farrelly Brothers' "Kingpin" (1996).
A disappointing third installment of the "Vacation" series, "Vegas Vacation" (1998), delivered respectable box office receipts but few laughs, even on the part of Cousin Eddie who offered an almost guaranteed chuckle. The ever busy Quaid moved on to his next project by adopting the persona of a no-nonsense small town sheriff in the thriller "Dark Rain" (1998) starring Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman. An attempt to recreate the dark comic genius Quaid displayed in "Parents" failed in the comic horror film "Bug Buster" (1998). The actor starred in wife Evi's directorial debut, "The Debtors" (1999), but was most visible over the next few years on television, playing a businessman who rents a cottage filled with Leprechauns in "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns," (NBC, 1999), and again portraying a U.S. president (this one fictitious) in the TV movie, "Mail to the Chief" (ABC, 2000). Quaid's next reprisal of hillbilly Cousin Eddie found the actor starring as the main attraction in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Vacation" (2003), which was produced and aired on the USA Network.
A regular role on the CBS family drama "The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire" (2003) was short-lived, so Quaid returned to theaters in a string of relatively low profile films. The most notable was his supporting performance as a one liner-spewing sheriff in the horror flick "Black Cadillac" (2003). Quaid had a leading role in the CBS miniseries "Category 6: Day of Destruction" (2004), a natural disaster thriller about the worst super storm in the nation's history, and also starred in the crime telepic, "5ive Days to Midnight" (Sci Fi Channel, 2004) before earning a third Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe nomination as well for portraying Col. Tom Parker, the highly controlling manager of Elvis (Jonathan Rhys-Davis), in the 2005 CBS miniseries "Elvis." He reprised his storm chaser role in the sequel "Category 7: The End of the World" (CBS, 2005) and reunited with director Harold Ramis who cast him as a menacing mob boss pursuing an accountant (John Cusack) who stole from him in the pitch-black comedy-noir, "The Ice Harvest" (2005).
That same year, Quaid had a strong supporting turn in director Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain" - his third appearance in a film based on a Larry McMurtry book - as the stern rancher who sends a pair of ranch hands (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger) on a sheep drive that sparks a long, turbulent romance between the two. In the wake of the film's enormous success, Quaid filed suit against the film's producers in 2006, alleging that they misrepresented the project as a low-budget, art house film and paid him accordingly, while in reality, the film had a big budget studio promotional machine behind it and went on to earn $170 million dollars. Quaid sued for $10 million, but the issue was resolved out of court for a reported $1 million. After that resolution, Quaid began receding slightly from the public eye, portraying Spanish King Carlos IV in Milos Forman's generally dismissed biopic "Goya's Ghosts" (2006), starring Natalie Portman and Javier Bardem, and in 2008, giving a cold-blooded starring performance as a hit man in the independent film, "Real Time" (2008), which circulated on the film festival circuit.
Over the next few years, however, Quaid earned more notoriety for his legal problems than for his minimal film output. In 2008, he was fined substantially and banned for life from any Actor's Equity stage production when the cast and crew of a Seattle musical production he was appearing in filed a complaint that the actor's abusive and "oddball" behavior forced the show to end its run prematurely. During the Equity dispute, Quaid's wife Evi got in a physical altercation at the Equity office in Los Angeles that resulted in four Equity staffers filing a restraining order against her. The following year, the couple raised eyebrows again when they failed to appear numerous times for a court date regarding an unpaid hotel bill in Santa Barbara, CA. In September 2009, a warrant for their arrest was issued, resulting in the Quaids being taken into custody in the West Texas town of Marfa, with the couple later posting bond. Eventually the bill was paid and the couple released a statement - after their quirky mug shots had been plastered across every celebrity blog and tabloid in the country - that the matter had all been a misunderstanding. However, after not showing up to an April 2010 hearing, the couple was arrested on April 26 but posted bail the same day. Two days later, all felony charges against the couple were dropped, though Evi was given probation and community service.
Sadly, the autumn of 2010 only brought increasingly bizarre behavior from the Quaids, who were by now a tabloid mainstay. In September, police were called to a Montecito, CA residence to investigate a report of squatters. When deputies arrived at the house, they found Randy and Evi Quaid, who claimed to have owned the property since the 1990s. When the current owner produced documents proving that the Quaids had previously sold the property to a third party several years prior, the couple countered with a claim that they were the victims of fraud, perpetrated by someone using a dead woman's identity in a scheme to transfer ownership of the home. The couple was accused of causing $5,000 in damages to the house, and when they failed to appear for a hearing stemming from the squatting and burglary charges, yet another warrant was issued for their arrest. Three days later, on October 21, the Quaids were arrested in an affluent shopping district in Vancouver, British Columbia. The following day - despite being granted release - the couple opted to remain in jail, begging authorities not to return them to the U.S. out of fear for their lives. In a cryptic, one-sentence statement to the media, the Quaids announced via their attorney, "We are requesting asylum from Hollywood star whackers." During an immigration board hearing that same day, they also stated their intent to apply for refugee status in Canada. While Evi's application was accepted in 2011 due to her family's Canadian ties, Randy's bid for permanent resident status was rejected in early 2013, leaving him in a protracted legal battle while still insisting that his life was at risk in the United States.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Film acting debut "Targets"
Played one of Cybill Shepherd's suitor's in "The Last Picture Show"
TV acting debut, "Getting Away From It All" (ABC)
Earned an Oscar nomination for his role as the dumb sailor tutored in the ways of the world by Jack Nicholson in "The Last Detail"
Had a supporting role in "Midnight Express"
First role in a TV miniseries, "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones" (CBS)
Was featured with brother Dennis in Walter Hill's Western, "The Long Riders"
Offered a fine comic turn as Cousin Eddie in "National Lampoon's Vacation"
Appeared Off-Broadway with brother Dennis in Sam Shepard's "True West"
Earned an Emmy nomination for his role as Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell in the CBS remake of "A Streetcar Named Desire"
Joined one season of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" as a regular cast member
Earned an Emmy nomination for portraying Lyndon Johnson in the TV biography "LBJ: The Early Years" (NBC)
Reprised role of Cousin Eddie in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"
Reprised his "Last Picture Show" role in the sequel, "Texasville"
First starring role in a TV series, "Davis Rules" (ABC, 1991; CBS, 1992)
Co-starred in Ron Howard's "The Paper"
Delivered memorable turn as a crop duster who aids in the fight against invading aliens in "Independence Day"
Played the lovable Amish bowler Ishmael in "Kingpin," alongside Woody Harrelson
Reprised his role as Cousin Eddie in "Vegas Vacation"
Played a serial killer in "Last Rites"
Had a supporting role in the action film, "Hard Rain"
Played a loser father in "Not Another Teen Movie"
Starred in the short-lived series, "The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire" (CBS)
Appeared on stage playing the starring role of Frank in Sam Shepard's "The God of Hell"
Cast in the Ang Lee Western, "Brokeback Mountain," opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger
Cast opposite John Cusack in the "Ice Harvest," a dark comedy directed by Harold Ramis
Earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations portraying 'Colonel' Tom Parker in the CBS' minseries, "Elvis"
Portayed King Carlos the IV in Miles Forman's "Goya's Ghosts"
Starred in the comedy, "Ball's Out: The Gary Houseman Story," alongside Seann William Scott