Intense, likeable, and highly talented American film and stage actor
, best known for his roles in Jaws
, Close Encounters of the Third Kind
, and Mr. Holland's Opus
. Richard Dreyfuss was born in Brooklyn
, New York, in October 1947, and moved with his family to Los Angeles
when he was 9. He dropped out of college, and after bit parts in a few TV shows and movies (including The Graduate
), hit it big with American Graffiti
in 1973. His first leading role was in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
the following year.
At 30, Dreyfuss became the youngest man to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as a struggling actor in Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl. Hot off this star-making role he worked with director Steven Spielberg on back-to-back smashes. In Jaws he plays a nerdy shark expert, and in Close Encounters he is mesmerized by "the shape" and beckoned to an alien craft's landing site (you've got to love the mashed potatoes scene).
The Big Fix (which he also produced), The Competition (for which he learned to play the piano), and several other critically acclaimed but poorly attended movies followed. In the early 80s Dreyfuss' life derailed with some highly publicized drug problems. After getting married in 1983 he got cleaned up, eventually making his film comeback in 1986 with Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Notable performances after this include parts in Moon over Parador, Always (for Spielberg again), Once Around, Postcards from the Edge, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The 1996 film Mr. Holland's Opus, in which he plays a dedicated music teacher whose son is deaf, earned him a Best Actor nomination from the Academy and a tremendous fan following.
Dreyfuss has appeared in numerous plays on and off the Broadway stage, starring in Death and the Maiden and Lost in Yonkers during the 1990s. He has always been an activist, and established the L.A. Works organization in 1991, which helps match the skills of volunteers with tasks needed by their community.
Dreyfuss has three children by his first wife, Jeramie Rain; they divorced in 1995. He remarried in 1999 to Jannelle Lacey, an accountant.
Knight-Ridder reported late last year that CBS has offered Dreyfuss a TV series in its 2001-02 lineup. Upcoming films include The Man who Read Love Stories and Cletis Tout, also starring Christian Slater and Tim Allen.