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Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss

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Also Known As: Richard Stephan Dreyfus Died:
Born: October 29, 1947 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: actor, producer, director, writer, hospital clerk

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Richard Dreyfuss was an American actor who collaborated with some of the greatest filmmakers of the 1970s, including the film that for all intents and purposes invented the summer blockbuster, and was for awhile the youngest man to ever win an Oscar for Best Actor. Throughout the years Dreyfuss brought a very specific, often tightly wound energy to all of his projects, whether he's appearing in tear-jerking dramas or slapstick comedies. Born on October 29, 1947 in Brooklyn, NY, Dreyfuss was the second son born to Geraldine Dreyfuss, a peace activist, and Norman Dreyfuss, an attorney. His older brother, Lorin, was born in 1944. The family lived in the Bayside area of Queens, but Norman soon grew tired of New York, and the family moved, first to Europe for awhile, before settling in Los Angeles when Dreyfuss was nine years old. It was here that Dreyfuss first began acting, performing in plays at the Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Art Center and Westside Jewish Community Center, under the tutelage of drama teacher Bill Miller. While still in high school at Beverly Hills High, Dreyfuss made his TV debut, on an episode of the sitcom "Karen" (1964-67). He briefly attended CSU Northridge, but dropped out...

Richard Dreyfuss was an American actor who collaborated with some of the greatest filmmakers of the 1970s, including the film that for all intents and purposes invented the summer blockbuster, and was for awhile the youngest man to ever win an Oscar for Best Actor. Throughout the years Dreyfuss brought a very specific, often tightly wound energy to all of his projects, whether he's appearing in tear-jerking dramas or slapstick comedies. Born on October 29, 1947 in Brooklyn, NY, Dreyfuss was the second son born to Geraldine Dreyfuss, a peace activist, and Norman Dreyfuss, an attorney. His older brother, Lorin, was born in 1944. The family lived in the Bayside area of Queens, but Norman soon grew tired of New York, and the family moved, first to Europe for awhile, before settling in Los Angeles when Dreyfuss was nine years old. It was here that Dreyfuss first began acting, performing in plays at the Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Art Center and Westside Jewish Community Center, under the tutelage of drama teacher Bill Miller. While still in high school at Beverly Hills High, Dreyfuss made his TV debut, on an episode of the sitcom "Karen" (1964-67). He briefly attended CSU Northridge, but dropped out after a year. In 1967, Dreyfuss appeared in very small roles in two high profile films, playing a stagehand in the drama "Valley of the Dolls" (1967), and a college student during a pivotal scene towards the end of "The Graduate" (1967). While working as a clerk at a Los Angeles hospital, part of his alternate service as a registered conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, Dreyfuss built up quite a resume of TV appearances, taking guest spots on such programs as "Peyton Place" (ABC, 1964-69), "That Girl" (ABC, 1966-1971), and "Bewitched" (ABC, 1964-1972). However, his big break came when an ambitious film school graduate named George Lucas cast Dreyfuss in the lead role of his second feature, "American Graffiti" (1973). In the film, a nostalgic look back at a group of high school friends over one pivotal night towards the end of summer 1962, Dreyfuss played Curt, a bright but conflicted young man who is debating whether or not he really wants to leave his hometown to go to college out on the East Coast, and spends the film trying to chase down an elusive blonde in a white T-Bird. In addition to Dreyfuss, the cast included a number of future stars, including Ron Howard and Harrison Ford. The film was a hit, and Dreyfuss followed it up with another lead role, playing the titular character in the comedy "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" (1974). Though the film wasn't a box office smash, it got strong reviews from critics, especially Pauline Kael, who praised Dreyfuss for his energetic performance. For his next film, Dreyfuss hooked up with Steven Spielberg, a buddy of his "American Graffiti" director George Lucas, to play Matt Hooper, a brash, Ivy League-educated shark specialist who embarks on a fateful journey alongside a squeamish local sheriff (Roy Scheider) and a drunken eccentric fisherman (Robert Shaw) to try and kill a bloodthirsty great white shark. While the production of the film was notoriously troubled, when "Jaws" (1975) was unleashed onto moviegoers in the summer of 1975, the response was seismic. "Jaws" became the highest grossing film of all time, all but cemented the summer blockbuster into culture, and made Spielberg one of the most popular directors in film history. Naturally, Dreyfuss decided to reunite with Spielberg for his next project, a moody yet hopeful sci-fi film about a family man whose life changes after he encounters alien lifeforms. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977), was another box office phenomenon, praised by critics and audiences alike, nominated for multiple Oscars, and went on to gross over $300 million worldwide. That same year, Dreyfuss starred in a much smaller film, "The Goodbye Girl," written by Neil Simon, in which he played Elliot Garfield, a neurotic aspiring actor trying to make it on Broadway who falls in love with an equally neurotic dancer (Marsha Mason). Though the film itself received mixed reviews, the consensus was that Dreyfuss was excellent as Elliot, and on Oscar night the following year, Dreyfuss became the youngest man in history to take home the award for Best Actor. At 30 years and 125 days old, he just barely beat out Marlon Brando, who was 30 years and 360 days old when he won the same prize for "On the Waterfront" (1954). With two huge blockbusters and an Academy Award under his belt, Dreyfuss should've been on top of the world. Sadly, it was around this time that he began using cocaine, a habit that quickly turned into a full-on addiction. In 1982, he hit rock bottom when he blacked out while driving, and his Mercedes-Benz 450 SL plowed into a tree. Dreyfuss wasn't hurt, but police did arrest him for cocaine possession. Soon after this incident, he entered rehab and got sober. The next step was getting his career back on track, which he did by appearing in a number of successful films, including Paul Mazursky's dark comedy "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986), and Rob Reiner's coming of age tale "Stand by Me" (1986). In 1989, Dreyfuss worked with Spielberg for a third time, starring alongside Holly Hunter, John Goodman, and Audrey Hepburn in her final onscreen appearance, in the romantic comedy "Always" (1989). Though the film wasn't nearly as big a hit as "Jaws" or "Close Encounters" this did not deter Dreyfuss, who followed it up with a powerhouse comedic performance in "What About Bob?" (1991), in which he played Dr. Leo Marvin, a self-obsessed therapist with a hair-trigger temper whose attempts at becoming a household name are destroyed over the course of a weekend by a well-meaning but deeply annoying patient named Bob (Bill Murray). The film was a hit with critics and audiences, largely due to the excellent comedic chemistry between Dreyfuss and Murray. For his next big project, Dreyfuss went back to drama, playing a high school music teacher who aspires to become a world-renowned composer while dealing with a dysfunctional family. Based on a true story, "Mr. Holland's Opus" (1995) earned Dreyfuss a number of accolades, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. As film work began to dry up in the late nineties, Dreyfuss turned to TV, acting as producer and star of the drama series "The Education of Max Bickford" (CBS, 2001-02). Despite a strong start, the show soon dipped in the ratings, and was cancelled after its first season. Dreyfuss was next slated to play shyster producer Max Bialystock in a London production of "The Producers" but was eventually fired due to issues involving a herniated disc. He followed up this kerfuffle by appearing in the big budget disaster remake "Poseidon" (2006), and playing Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic, "W." (2008). After both of those films failed to make much of a mark, Dreyfuss returned to TV, where he enjoyed an arc on the drama "Weeds" (Showtime, 2005-2012), playing Warren Schiff, an old high school teacher of lead character Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), to whom she lost her virginity as a teen. He then went from playing a fictional old creep to playing a real life one, when he was cast as the notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff in the miniseries "Madoff" (ABC, 2016), a performance which earned him rave reviews. Dreyfuss could next be seen in two Netflix original films: the comedy "The Last Laugh" (2019) and the action thriller "Polar" (2019).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Polar (2019)
2.
 Book Club (2018)
3.
 Asher (2017)
4.
 Spielberg (2017)
5.
 Zipper (2015)
6.
 Cas & Dylan (2015)
7.
 Squatters (2013)
8.
9.
 Casting By (2013)
10.
 Very Good Girls (2013)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1971:
Appeared in Israel Horowitz's off-Broadway play "Line"
1968:
Delivered memorable role as a cocky car thief in "The Young Runaways"
2010:
Played a local drug lord in Tim Blake Nelson's "Leaves of Grass"
2008:
Portrayed U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's biopic "W."
1978:
Produced and starred in feature film "The Big Fix"
1987:
Produced, wrote and hosted TV special "Funny You Don't Look 200!" (ABC)
1998:
Re-teamed with Mason for the stage play "House," co-authored by Jon Robin Baitz and Terrence McNally
1979:
Starred as Iago in "Othello" with the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park
1981:
Turned in remarkable performance as paralyzed sculptor who argues for his right to die in John Badham's "Whose Life Is It Anyway?"
:
Worked at New York Playboy Club with comedy troupe; was fired after his first performance for insulting customers
1995:
Acted opposite Christine Lahti in the Los Angeles stage production of "Three Hotels"
1964:
At 15 made professional stage debut with "In Mama's House" at the Gallery Theatre in Los Angeles
2004:
Co-starred with Chris Cooper in John Sayles' political satire "Silver City"
1987:
Offered excellent turns in both Barry Levinson's "Tin Men" and Badham's "Stakeout"
1999:
Portrayed infamous Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in HBO's "Lansky"; scripted by David Mamet and directed by John McNaughton
1988:
Re-teamed with Mazursky as the very broad actor-cum-dictator of "Moon Over Parador"
1992:
Returned to Broadway in "Death and the Maiden" with Glenn Close and Gene Hackman
1994:
Stage directorial debut, "Hamlet" for the Birmingham Theatre Company at the Old Rep in England
2006:
Starred in director Wolfgang Petersen's remake of "The Poseidon Adventure"
1989:
Third film with director Spielberg, starring opposite Holly Hunter in "Always"
1997:
Co-produced and starred as Fagin in the TV adaptation of "Oliver Twist" (ABC)
1999:
Co-starred with Mason in the London stage production of Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"
1974:
Landed first lead role in the Canadian film "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz"
1964:
First television appearance, the NBC sitcom "Karen"
1991:
Re-teamed with Hunter for Lasse Hallstrom's "Once Around"
1998:
Starred opposite Jenna Elfman in "Krippendorf's Tribe"
1972:
TV movie debut, "Two for the Money" (ABC)
2000:
Cast as an aging gangster in the comedy "The Crew"
2009:
Cast in Joe Sutton's "Complicit" at London's Old Vic theater; directed by Kevin Spacey
2001:
Co-starred in "The Old Man Who Loved to Read Stories"
1966:
Directed by Rob Reiner in the stage production of "The Session" with Larry Bishop (son of Joey), Reiner, and David Arkin
1996:
Directed the short film "Present Tense, Past Perfect" (Showtime)
2009:
Earned a Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word for the album <i>The Lincoln-Douglas Debates</i>
1991:
Executive produced Ken Russell's "Prisoner of Honor" (HBO); also co-starred as George Picquart
1996:
Made cameo appearance as Senator Bob Rumson in Reiner's "The American President"
1969:
Made Broadway debut in "But, Seriously..."
1997:
Played a civil rights attorney based on William Kunstler for Sidney Lumet's "Night Falls on Manhattan"
1973:
Played Baby Face Nelson in John Milius' "Dillinger"
1978:
Played Cassius in "Julius Caesar" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
2001:
Played U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig in Showtime drama "The Day Reagan Was Shot"
1991:
Portrayed Bill Murray's shrink in "What About Bob?"
2004:
Returned to Broadway in "Sly Fox" opposite Elizabeth Berkley
2001:
Starred in the CBS TV drama "The Education of Max Bickford"
2010:
Acted opposite Elisabeth Shue in the action thriller "Piranha 3-D"
2010:
Portrayed Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in the Colin Greer play "Imagining Heschel" at New York's Cherry Lane Theater
2012:
Co-starred with Lauren Ambrose and Geena Davis in A&E miniseries "Coma," based on 1978 film
2016:
Played notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff in miniseries "Madoff"
2019:
Co-starred in Netflix comedy film "The Last Laugh"
2019:
Appeared in the Netflix action thriller "Polar"
1967:
First film part, uncredited role in "The Graduate"
1973:
Garnered notice for his turn as the college-bound Curt in George Lucas' "American Graffiti"
1975:
Breakthrough role, played marine biologist Matt Hooper in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws"
1986:
Narrated director Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me"
1986:
Started as part of the fine ensemble of Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills"
1977:
Second collaboration with Spielberg, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
1977:
Won Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a struggling actor opposite Marsha Mason in Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl"
1993:
Appeared in feature film version of Neil Simon's play "Lost in Yonkers"
1995:
Earned second Best Actor Academy Award nomination for "Mr. Holland's Opus"
1996:
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (October)
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Education

Beverly Hills High School: Beverly Hills, California - 1965
San Fernando Valley State College: Northridge, California - 1965
San Fernando Valley State College: Northridge, California - 1965

Notes

Dreyfuss is a charter member of the Los Angeles Classic Theatre Works group.

His producing partnership with Judith Rutherford James, Dreyfuss/James Productions, has shared producing responsibilities on "Once Around" (1991, in which Dreyfus starred), Robert Redford's "Quiz Show" (1994), the TNT movie "Kissinger and Nixon" (1995) and "Krippindorf's Tribe" (1998, in which he also starred), among other projects.

"I have no memory of not wanting to be an actor." --Richard Dreyfuss ("Earl Blackwell's Entertainment Celebrity Register)

"I didn't anticipate the guilt and the fear of success. I didn't anticipate the down side of success at all . . . I started to resist the position I was in by drinking a lot, doing drugs, eating too much, being childish, denigrating my talent." --Dreyfuss in Esquire, October 10, 1978.

Arrested for illegal possession of cocaine and Percodan after surviving a 1982 car accident, Dreyfuss underwent a court-ordered rehabilitation in lieu of a trial.

"I got into films to be Spencer Tracy and Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni. I knew I wasn't Errol Flynn. I also knew I didn't have to be." --Richard Dreyfuss to Empire, June 1996.

"I'm 50 and stale. What's the big surprise? I've been performing for 41 years and famous for 25 of them. I know my life has been pretty blessed, and part of my Jewish guilt can't accept that.

"But in the worst moments of my darkest hours, I've never devalued the work I've done. I've always been proud of the aggregate body. And now I've gotta figure out where I want it to lead." --Richard Dreyfuss in New York Post, February 23, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Jeramie Dreyfuss. TV writer-producer. Met at a party c. 1983; married on March 20, 1983; separated in 1992; divorced in 1995; born c. 1948; mother of his three children; suffered a flare up of systemic lupus erythematosus after birth of first child Emily; originally diagnosed at 29 after having had recurring attacks for years.
companion:
Laura Cayouette. Actor. Together from c. 1993 to 1996; born c. 1964; daughter of NSA deputy director William Crowell.
wife:
Janelle Lacey. Accountant. Announced engagement in May 1998; married on May 30, 1999.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Norman Dreyfus. Attorney, businessman. Later became a restaurateur.
mother:
Gerry Dreyfus. Also a peace activist; acted in two movies with son, "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986, portraying his mother) and "Let It Ride" (1989); died on October 19, 2000 from complications of a stroke.
daughter:
Emily Dreyfuss. Born in November 1983; mother, Jeramie Dreyfuss.
son:
Benjamin Dreyfuss. Born in June 1986 with Peter's anomaly, an abnormality in which his cornea was fused with his iris leaving him permanently blind in one eye; mother, Jeramie Dreyfuss.
son:
Harry Spencer Dreyfuss. Born on August 9, 1990; mother, Jeramie Dreyfuss.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Two Georges"

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