‘Jaws’ Star Richard Dreyfuss Still Telling Fish Stories

Mike Ramsey
January 19, 2019 - 5:39 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM Newsradio) — Richard Dreyfuss probably needs no introduction, but here’s a brief one, anyway.

The Oscar-winning actor’s filmography dates back to the mid-1960s and includes television appearances on “The Big Valley” and “Gunsmoke.” He achieved mainstream success in the 1973 George Lucas comedy American Graffiti.

It was 1975’s Jaws — Steven Spielberg’s horror-adventure story about a Great White Shark — that launched Dreyfuss into the A-list stratosphere. He played the role of Matt Hooper, a marine biologist who helps hunt a 25-foot-long killer fish, alongside co-stars Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw.

The seminal Hollywood blockbuster brings Dreyfuss to Chicago later this month. He’ll appear at a Jan. 31 screening at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove and share war stories about the making of the classic movie.

WBBM Newsradio talked briefly with the 71-year-old Dreyfuss by phone in advance of the event. Below are edited highlights of the actor’s comments.

Not just older folks show up to Jaws screenings: “It’s everyone. Jaws is one of those films (where) it becomes a sort of legacy in a family. They come up to me and they say, ‘My father saw this and he made me come and now I’m seeing it and my kids are seeing it.’ They’re very territorial about it … All of the time, young people say this film works now as well as anything, and it need not be reshot.”

On the legendary problems surrounding the production: “We started the film without a shark, without a script and without a cast. I was not cast until two days into it, and the shark never worked because, unbeknownst to all of us, we were the first film ever to attempt to be made on the real ocean. Every other film you’ve ever seen were tanks. … Steven had to re-conceive the film. If anyone ever doubts the creative brilliance of Spielberg, just take a look at that film because he grabbed us and he never let us go. But that’s not the movie he signed up to do.”

Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA

Why he turned down Jaws 2: “I was offered sequels. I said no. They said, ‘Why?’ I said because you’d have to pay so much money to me because it would have to make up for all the other films I never got a crack at because I was in this piece of (expletive).”

His most overlooked work: “Every film I made in the ‘80s. I made the type of films that I wanted to make.”

Not true — trivia on the Internet that he auditioned to be one of the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music: “Not even close. If that’s a fact, then someone’s going to get struck by lightning.”