Dennis Quaid's career and love life haven't commanded so many headlines since second wife Meg Ryan cheated on him with Russell Crowe in 2000.
Quaid, best known for '80s films "The Right Stuff" and "The Big Easy," is very much back in the news because the 65-year-old actor last month got engaged to a woman 39 years his junior: 26-year-old Laura Savoie, who is said to be getting her PhD in philosophy at the University of Texas.
The 39-year age gap immediately raised eyebrows. For one thing, Savoie is a year younger than Quaid's son with Ryan, Jack Quaid.
Now Quaid is defending the romance that began in May in a new interview with The Guardian.
"I didn't go out looking for an age gap or someone really younger than me," Quaid told The Guardian, explaining that the relationship developed after they met at a business event.
"You have no control over who you fall in love with," he also said.
As it happens, Quaid's comments about having "no control" over falling in love with a much younger woman echo those famously made by another older male Hollywood figure, when he was trying to explain his attraction to a college student 35 years his junior.
That would be Woody Allen. In a 1992 interview with Time, the actor, writer and director said about his romance with Soon-Yi Previn: "The heart wants what it wants. There's no logic to those things. You meet someone, and you fall in love, and that's that."
Allen was then 56, and Previn was around 21. (Her exact age is uncertain because she was adopted as a child from South Korea.)
Certainly, the age gap isn't the only reason that Allen's relationship with Previn was controversial at the time and has since contributed to the public's growing distaste for his artistic fixation on much younger women in such films as "Manhattan," "Husbands and Wives" and other works.
Previn was the adopted daughter of Allen's then-long-term partner Mia Farrow. He admitted that his affair with Previn began when he and Farrow were still together — though he claims the relationship by that point was "on the wane."
Complicating matters even more: Previn is the older sister of the children Allen and Farrow shared, including Farrow and future journalist Ronan Farrow. Finally, Allen and Previn's affair became known the same year that Dylan Farrow, then 7, accused Allen of molesting her.
In the Time interview, Allen vehemently denied molesting Dylan, as he has done repeatedly over the years. He also denied that he ever played a paternal role in Previn's life, saying he never spent very much time with any of Farrow's children who were not his own.
But some of Allen's interview with Time focused on questions about his being involved with a much-younger woman.
"I don't want to say (there's) an intellectual relationship, because I'm not saying we were discussing Kant or anything, but we chatted about different things," Allen said. He then described Soon-Yi as a "smart, grownup person. ... She's probably more mature than I am."
Quaid probably wouldn't appreciate the comparison to Allen's problematic relationship with Previn. Certainly, Quaid's engagement to a 26-year-old is far less controversial than anything Allen has said or done.
For the most part, Quaid's engagement has launched thousands of online jokes and memes, including those that point to the fact that Nick, his character in 1998's "The Parent Trap," is depicted as having a midlife crisis centered around getting engaged to a 26-year-old. One tweet that went viral was posted by Elaine Hendrix, the actress who played his younger fiancee.
"Watch out for those twins," Hendrix wrote, in reference to the 11-year-old sisters in the film who do not approve of her. Quaid himself has 11-year-old twins with his third wife, Kimberly Buffington.
Quaid has tried to laugh off the jokes, and he claims they don't bother him and Savoie.
"Everyone comes from the perspective of their own life, and so I can't comment on the way they feel; I can't even get angry," said Quaid, who is currently filming a comedy sitcom, "Merry Happy Whatever," for Netflix.
But there might be a sentiment that he and Allen can agree on: the hope that he's finally found the woman he'll be with the rest of his life.
Allen's relationship with Previn survived his bitter legal fight with Farrow over custody of Dylan and Ronan. It also continued despite Dylan's allegations, which gained renewed focus during the #MeToo movement and prompted him to effectively be "canceled" in American culture by losing a lucrative production deal with Amazon. Allen and Previn married in 1997 and adopted two daughters.
Quaid told The Guardian, "I can't let what a few people think control all that. I've been married three times, and this is the final one; I know it is. I feel like I have a real partner in life."
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