Role Recall: Richard Dreyfuss on doubting 'Jaws,' coping with an abusive Bill Murray on 'What About Bob?' and more
Richard Dreyfuss has had a rollercoaster of a career, highs and lows alternating not just through the course of years but oftentimes throughout the same film shoot.
He's never lost his swagger, though: "I am a wonderful actor, and I know it," Dreyfuss told us during our latest episode of Role Recall (watch above), in which the 71-year-old New York native recounted stories from his long and prosperous career.
About those highs and lows: One of his very first movie roles came in the seminal 1967 drama The Graduate, where he had one line as an uncredited "Boarding House Resident." But it was merely a disappointing consolation. Dreyfuss wanted the Dustin Hoffman part.
There was American Graffiti (1973), the movie that helped launch not just his career, but those of writer-director-future Star Wars creator George Lucas and others like Harrison Ford and Ron Howard. But Dreyfuss didn't understand the appeal of the movie, and one night he was pushed into a pool by a drunk Ford.
He also had a contentious relationship with Robert Shaw on the set of Jaws (1975), and found himself on an apology tour after he doubted the prospects of Steven Spielberg's industry-transforming thriller.
Films like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) turned him into a bonafide star, and he won an Academy Award after replacing Robert De Niro in the rom-com The Goodbye Girl (1977). But he fell into a pattern of drug abuse in the early '80s before making a comeback in comedies like Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) and Stakeout (1987).
One of his most popular comedies, 1991's What About Bob?, was marred by abuse Dreyfuss says he suffered at the hands of his co-star, "Irish drunken bully" Bill Murray. He earned another Oscar nomination for 1995's Mr. Holland's Opus, briefly retired from film acting in the early 2000s, and has since alternated stage work with the occasional new film release, like his new kidnapping actioner Daughter of the Wolf, in which he plays The Big Bad opposite ex-MMA star Gina Carano.
Some highlights from the interview:
On his impression of a young Lucas, and the director's generosity: "George is the only film director I've ever met who doesn't like directing. … You just knew he couldn't wait to not direct. … And then George did something. He took one of his [profit] points, and he divided it up among the 10 leading actors. And I have made more money off that one-tenth of that one gross point than I have on anything else. That's a pure gesture."
On the debauchery behind the scenes of American Graffiti: "Harrison [Ford] and the leader of the gang [Bo Hopkins], one night the two of them got drunk and I was walking by and they threw me into the pool. And that was OK, except they threw me into the shallow end, and I got an egg on my forehead. And then there was the usual, 'Who's gonna f**k that girl?'"
On his doubts about the future classic Jaws: "Everyone had thought they had struck gold, and I said, 'What are you talking about? It's just a little movie.' So when the film was released, I found myself going back to the talk shows and saying 'I'm the guy who didn't believe in it.'"
On coping with an abusive Murray on What About Bob?: "I didn't talk about it for years. … Bill just got drunk at dinner. He was an Irish drunken bully, is what he was. … He came back from dinner [one night] and I said, 'Read this [script tweak], I think it's really funny.' And he put his face next to me, nose-to-nose. And he screamed at the top of his lungs, 'Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!' There was no time to react, because he leaned back and he took a modern glass-blown ashtray. He threw it at my face from [only a couple feet away]. And it weighed about three quarters of a pound. And he missed me. He tried to hit me. I got up and left."
On clashing with Oliver Stone on W., in which he played Dick Cheney: "I heard [Oliver] say, 'Well, you're so old. You look so old.' And I said, 'I do?'… I needed that money, so I put up with it."
Daughter of the Wolf is now in select theaters and on-demand. Watch the trailer:
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