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Archive for October 29, 2011

Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in a number of film, television, and theater roles since the late 1960s, including the films ‘American Graffiti’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘The Goodbye Girl’, ‘Tin Men’, ‘Stakeout’, ‘What About Bob?’, ‘Mr Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Piranha 3D’.

Dreyfuss’s first film part was a small, uncredited role in ‘The Graduate’. He had one line, “Shall I get the cops? I’ll get the cops”. He was also briefly seen as a stage hand in ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (1967), in which he had a few lines. He appeared in the subsequent ‘Dillinger’, and landed his breakout role in the 1973 hit ‘American Graffiti’, acting with other future stars such as Harrison Ford and Ron Howard. Dreyfuss played his first lead role in the Canadian film ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz’ (1974), receiving positive reviews, including praise from the legendary Pauline Kael. 

Dreyfuss went on to star in the box office blockbuster ‘Jaws’ (1975) and’Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), both directed by his good friend Steven Spielberg. 

Jaws is based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel. The police chief of Amity Island, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw a profit from tourists during the summer season. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and oceanographer, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw).

Richard Dreyfuss initially passed on the role of Matt Hooper, but after being disappointed by his own performance in a pre-release screening of ‘…Duddy Kravitz’, the film he had just completed, he immediately called Spielberg and accepted the role, fearing that no one would want to hire him once Kravitz was released. Because the film was so dissimilar to the novel, Spielberg asked Dreyfuss not to read the book before offering him the role. The rest is history.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr and Bob Balaban. It tells the story of Roy Neary (Dreyfuss), a lineman in Indiana, whose life changes after he has an encounter with a UFO.

Steve McQueen was Spielberg’s first choice. Although McQueen was impressed with the script, he felt he was not specifically right for the role as he was unable to cry on cue. Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Gene Hackman, turned down the part as well. Jack Nicholson turned it down because of scheduling conflicts. Spielberg explained when filming Jaws, “Dreyfuss talked me into casting him. He listened to about 155-days worth of Close Encounters. He even contributed ideas.” Dreyfuss reflected, “I launched myself into a campaign to get the part. I would walk by Steve’s office and say stuff like ‘Al Pacino has no sense of humor’ or ‘Jack Nicholson is too crazy’. I eventually convinced him to cast me.”

He won the 1978 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a struggling actor in ‘The Goodbye Girl’ (1977), becoming the youngest actor to do so (at the age of 29). Around this time, Dreyfuss began using cocaine frequently; his addiction came to a head four years later in 1982, when he was arrested for possession of the drug after he blacked out while driving, and his car struck a tree. He entered rehabilitation and eventually made a Hollywood comeback with the film ‘Down And Out in Beverly Hills’ in 1986 and ‘Stakeout’ the following year.

Last year he featured in a small but memorable role in Piranha 3D (2010), a comedy-horror film, and the second remake of the 1978 film of the same name. Directed by Alexandre Aja the movie opens with fisherman Matthew Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss) fishing in Lake Victoria, Arizona when a small earthquake hits, splitting the lake floor and causing a whirlpool. Boyd falls in and is ripped apart by a school of piranhas that emerge from the chasm and ascend the vortex. Great fun.