Randy Quaid Biography

Actor (1950–)
Actor Randy Quaid is an “everyman” who has appeared in films ranging from dramas such as The Last Detail to comedies like National Lampoon’s Vacation.


Born on October 1, 1950, in Houston, Texas, actor Randy Quaid has appeared in a wide range of roles over four decades. He received critical praise for his dramatic performances in The Last Detail and LBJ: The Early Years, but he is best-loved for his appearances as "Cousin Eddie" in the National Lampoon's Vacation comedies. His career has recently been overshadowed by a series of legal troubles.

Early Life and Work

Randy Quaid was born Randall Rudy Quaid on October 1, 1950, in Houston, Texas. His mother, Juanita Bonniedale (née Jordan) Quaid, was a real estate agent, and his father, William Rudy Quaid, was an electrician. Their younger son, Dennis Quaid, would also become an actor.

Quaid attended the University of Houston as a drama major. While still a student, he met the young film director Peter Bogdanovich, who cast Quaid in the thriller Targets in 1968. The two men worked together in several other movies, including the critically lauded dramas The Last Picture Show in 1971 and Paper Moon in 1973.

Career Highlights

In 1973 Quaid portrayed a young U.S. Navy sailor named Larry Meadows in the drama The Last Detail. His performance as Meadows, who is being escorted to naval prison by two other sailors (one of them played by Jack Nicholson), earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

Quaid acted in other serious film roles throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including the gritty crime drama Midnight Express of 1978. He depicted President Lyndon B. Johnson in the television miniseries LBJ: The Early Years, aired on NBC in 1987, and received a Golden Globe for this performance.

However, Quaid is perhaps best-loved for his recurring appearances as obnoxious “Cousin Eddie” in the National Lampoon’s Vacation films of the 1980s and 1990s, including Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation and the made-for-television Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. He was also a regular on Saturday Night Live during its 1985-86 television season.

Quaid’s work in the later 1990s and 2000s was more sporadic. In 1996, he appeared in the blockbuster disaster film Independence Day as well as the bowling comedy Kingpin. However, his ongoing work included a number of lightweight, poorly received films such as the spoof Not Another Teen Movie (2001) and the Eddie Murphy vehicle The Adventures of Pluto Nash in 2002.

A notable exception was his performance in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, in which he appeared as a hard-boiled rancher who hires two young men, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, to guard his herds.

Quaid has also performed onstage, although his erratic behavior during a Broadway-bound production titled Lone Star Love resulted in his expulsion from the Actors’ Equity Association in 2008.

Personal Life and Recent Controversy

Quaid has been married twice. From 1980 to 1985, he was married to actress Ella Jolly, with whom he had a daughter named Amanda. In 1988, he met Evi Motolanez on the set of Bloodhounds of Broadway, where she was working as a production assistant. They married in 1989 and later adopted two children, Charlotte and Kaki.

In recent years the Quaids have been the subject of negative publicity on several occasions. They have been arrested for failure to pay sizable hotel bills and for felony burglary charges; in 2010 they sought asylum in Canada, claiming their lives were at risk. Their tales of a celebrity-murdering group of "Hollywood star whackers" brought them an additional degree of attention but failed to clear them of existing legal charges.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!