The teens outside last weekend’s Sony Pictures Classics party at the Toronto Film Festival were screaming for Zac Efron, but inside the gathering his 58-year-old At Any Price co-star, Dennis Quaid, proved that he could still keep people with more mature tastes a little, well, off balance. In At Any Price he plays a struggling commercial farmer, while on his new CBS show Vegas he plays a rancher turned sheriff, so a conversation with him started on the subject of cows — but damned if even on this agrarian topic he couldn’t find a way to flash a roguish smile and flex the charm you’d imagine he has, and leave this reporter a little flushed and discombobulated.
So you’ve done both Vegas and At Any Price lately. Do you have a real-life connection to ranches or farms?
I have a ranch in Montana, but it’s not a real working ranch. I’ve always liked the outdoors. I come from Texas. My grandfather was a farmer, that’s as close as I come.
How good are you at wrangling?
Oh, I can wrangle. I do a little bit o’ cuttin’.
Cutting? What’s that?
It’s where you have a cow here [points in front of him] and you’re on a horse [facing the cow]. It’s like playing football. The cow wants to get over to the other cows back there to make a touchdown, let’s put it that way. And your horse is keeping him from doing that. You’ll go like this, boop-boop [gestures], sideways.
Why don’t you want the cow to join the other cows?
Because it’s a game. The horse can leave you in the air because he turns so fast.
Why would you want to play a game of trying to outmaneuver a cow? It seems like the cow is not a worthy opponent.
Oh, cows are very worthy opponents.
Oh, they can be really worthy. Have you ever been out there with a cow like that? Obviously not. [laughs]
I grew up in New Mexico but we did not do that.
No cutting out there, huh?
I was going to ask how you and Zac Efron created a father-son bond.
I thought we were contemporaries, myself. [He laughs, which grows proportionally with my blushing.]
Ha … I didn’t mean to … um … I didn’t insult you, did I?
No, I’m just making fun. Because you didn’t know what cutting was. I was insulted by that. [laughs] That’s fine. That’s fine. [Imagine, if you can, dear readers, crinkled eyes and a wide grin leaning toward you, indicating that Dennis Quaid is indeed kidding with you and has deemed you a worthwhile conversational opponent for right now, his cow of the moment, if you will.]
Man, I suck. I don’t know what cutting is … I don’t think you and Zac are the same age …
You’re 0-for-two. Redeem yourself!
Okay, so you and Zac are the same age. I did not realize this.
Not many people do.
He’s aged really well.
I saw your pilot for Vegas. It’s shooting now?
We just started a month ago.
Is it shooting in Las Vegas?
No, we’re shooting in Santa Clarita, California, because Vegas doesn’t look like Vegas in 1960.
But Santa Clarita does?
We built the entire set. We built Fremont Street in 1960.
The pilot looks like it just costs so much money.
Yeah, it did. [laughs] They’re spending a lot on it and they’ve got a lot of really great writers. Nick Pileggi [Casino, Goodfellas] is involved in it. So, it’s ours to blow, I guess.
Having that many horses in a show looks like it would be an issue, given what happened with Luck.
Horseracing and ranch horses are two different animals. You’re getting race horses out and running and running them. It can be really problematic. A thoroughbred’s very delicate.
These are manlier horses?
[laughs] These are working horses. [stares at me awaiting another question … my mind goes blank]
Well, I don’t want to keep you too long at your own party.
You redeemed yourself by the end. [Grabs my arm. He winks and grins at me.] You redeemed yourself with hello.