Parker and Quaid flip their images for "Smart People"

Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:32am EDT
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By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For Sarah Jessica Parker and Dennis Quaid, the decision to work on the film "Smart People," which opens on Friday, might seem like a risky choice given the jarring contrast between their roles as a lonely doctor and cranky professor and their public images.

But Parker and Quaid said they think their decisions were, in fact, smart choices.

A lot of actors fear that if they take parts challenging audience perceptions, some fans may not accept it. That kind of image gap seemed to work against John Travolta in his role last year as an overweight mom in "Hairspray" and Kevin Costner as a serial killer in "Mr. Brooks."

Parker's part as an emotionally detached and unkempt doctor in "Smart People" might seem at odds with her trademark role as a fashion-minded New Yorker seeking love in her hit TV comedy "Sex and the City."

Likewise, Quaid has played tough athletes, cops and outspoken family men in films ranging from "The Rookie" to "The Big Easy" and "The Parent Trap," so his fans might wonder what he's doing as an overweight, taciturn college professor.

But the actors told Reuters in a joint interview that their roles in "Smart People" challenge them creatively and keep their work sharp.

"I tend not to find characters that I understand and relate to, because otherwise I would feel like 'Oh well, that would be comfortable,' Parker said.

For Quaid, the strategy has worked well in the past. His turn as a married and closeted gay man in 2003's "Far From Heaven" earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor and marked a critical rebound in his acting career.   Continued...

<p>Sarah Jessica Parker (L) and Dennis Quaid sit for a portrait to promote the upcoming film "Smart People" in New York, March 29, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford</p>