Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (originally Dreyfus; born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in popular films during the 1970s through 1990s, including American Graffiti, Jaws, Stand By Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Goodbye Girl, Always, and Mr. Holland’s Opus.
Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1977 for The Goodbye Girl, and was nominated in 1995 for Mr. Holland’s Opus. He has also won a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, and was nominated in 2002 for Screen Actors Guild Awards in the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries categories.
Dreyfuss was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Geraldine Dreyfus (ne Robbins; 19212000), a peace activist, and Norman Dreyfus (19202013), an attorney and restaurateur, and was raised in the Bayside area of Queens, New York. Dreyfuss was born Jewish. He has commented that he “grew up thinking that Alfred Dreyfus and are from the same family.” His father disliked New York, and moved the family first to Europe, and later to Los Angeles, California, when Dreyfuss was nine. Dreyfuss attended Beverly Hills High School.
Dreyfuss began acting in his youth, at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Arts Center and Westside Jewish Community Center, under drama teacher Bill Miller. He debuted in the TV production In Mama’s House, when he was fifteen. He attended San Fernando Valley State College, now California State University, Northridge, for a year, and was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, working in alternate service for two years, as a clerk in a Los Angeles hospital. During this time, he acted in a few small TV roles on shows such as Peyton Place, Gidget, That Girl , Gunsmoke, Bewitched, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, and The Big Valley. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he also performed on stage on Broadway, Off-Broadway, repertory, and improvisational theater.
Dreyfuss’s first film role was a small, uncredited appearance 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. In 1973 he starred in the CBS pilot Catch-22. He appeared in the subsequent Dillinger, and landed a 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 Pauline Kael.
Dreyfuss went on to star in the box office blockbusters Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), both directed by Steven Spielberg. He won the 1978 Academy Award for Best Actor at the 50th Academy Awards ceremony for his portrayal of a struggling actor in The Goodbye Girl (1977), becoming the youngest actor to do so (at the age of 30 years, 125 days old), besting Marlon Brando, who had won his first Oscar in 1955 at the age of 30 years 360 days old. This record stood for 25 years until it was broken in 2003 by Adrien Brody, who was three weeks shy of age 30 at the time of the 75th Academy Awards ceremony.
Around 1978, 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 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL struck a tree. He entered rehabilitation and eventually made a Hollywood comeback with the films Down And Out In Beverly Hills in 1986 and Stakeout the following year. Dreyfuss also starred in the Rob Reiner movie, Stand by Me, a 1986 coming-of-age drama/comedy film adapted from Stephen King‘s novella The Body. Dreyfuss plays the elder Gordie Lachance, who narrates the film. In 1988, he reunited with director Paul Mazursky to star in the political farce Moon Over Parador.
In 1989, Dreyfuss reunited with Spielberg on Always, a remake of A Guy Named Joe in which he co-starred with Holly Hunter. He had a starring role opposite Bill Murray in the 1991 comedy What About Bob?, as a psychiatrist who goes crazy while trying to cope with a particularly obsessive new patient. That same year, Dreyfuss produced and starred as Georges Picquart in Prisoner of Honor, an HBO movie about the historical Dreyfus Affair.
In 1994, he participated in the historic Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah at the Vatican in the presence of Pope John Paul II, Rav Elio Toaff, chief rabbi of Rome, and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of the Italian Republic. He recited Kaddish as part of a performance of Leonard Bernstein‘s Third Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Gilbert Levine. The event was broadcast worldwide.
Dreyfuss was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance as Glenn Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). Since then, he has continued working in the movies, television and the stage. In 2001/2002, he played Max Bickford in the television drama The Education of Max Bickford. In April 2004, he appeared in the revival of Sly Fox on Broadway (opposite Eric Stoltz, Ren Auberjonois, Bronson Pinchot and Elizabeth Berkley).
In November 2004, he was scheduled to appear in The Producers in London, but withdrew from the production a week before opening night. The media noted that Dreyfuss was still suffering from problems relating to an operation for a herniated disc in January, and that the part of Max Bialystock in the play is a physically demanding one. Both he and his assistant for the production stated that Dreyfuss was accumulating injuries that required him to wear physical therapy supports during rehearsals. Dreyfuss was eventually fired from the production, though he would return in 2008.
In early 2009, he appeared in the play Complicit (directed by Kevin Spacey) in London’s Old Vic theatre. His participation in the play was subject to much controversy, owing to his use of an earpiece on stage, reportedly because of his inability to learn his lines in time. He guest-voiced as himself in the “Three Kings” episode of Family Guy in 2009, and later appeared again in the episode “Peter-assment“. Dreyfuss has guest starred in the sixth season of Weeds as Warren Schiff, Nancy‘s high school teacher to whom she had lost her virginity.
Dreyfuss has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
Dreyfuss was among 99 other stars at the 2012 Academy Awards – Night of 100 Stars. He did an interview for the Bill Zucker Show with actor/singer Bill Zucker.
The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative
Dreyfuss seeks to revive Civics education to teach future generations about the power of their citizenship and the principles that hold America together. In 2006, he created The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative (TDCI). TDCI’s mission is to revitalize and enhance the teaching of Civics in American public education to empower future generations with the critical thinking skills needed to fulfill the vast potential of American citizenship. TDCI is a 501(c)3 designated organization, recognized as of 2008.
Dreyfuss has made numerous public appearances since the organization’s founding to raise awareness to start discussion and dialogue regarding the need for increased civic education. On February 16, 2006, he spoke at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in hopes of prompting a national discussion on impeachment charges against U.S. President George W. Bush. On November 17, 2006, Dreyfuss appeared on HBO‘s Real Time with Bill Maher as a panel member to discuss teaching Civics in schools. He formerly served on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In 2007, Dreyfuss appeared in the youth voting documentary film 18 in ’08. In 2014, Dreyfuss appeared on Huckabee, hosted by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, to discuss how civic education can create a stronger America and to ask viewers to sign the Preamble to support the cause.
Dreyfuss was also an advisor to The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.
Dreyfuss has been outspoken on the issue of how the media influences the shaping of public opinion, policy, and legislation. In the 2000s, he expressed his sentiments in favor of right to privacy, freedom of speech, democracy, and individual accountability.
In 1995, Dreyfuss co-authored with science-fiction writer Harry Turtledove the novel The Two Georges, a steampunk/alternate history/mystery piece set in the year 1995 of a timeline where the American Revolution was peacefully avoided. Thomas Gainsborough‘s painting of George Washington and King George III, which symbolizes English-speaking North Americans’ loyalty to the British Empire, is stolen by anti-Imperial terrorists, and officers of the Royal American Mounted Police must find it before it is destroyed.
Dreyfuss married writer and producer Jeramie Rain in the early 1980s. With her, he had three children: Emily (born 1983), Benjamin (born 1986), and Harry (born 1990). His elder son, Benjamin, was born with Peters Anomaly, a rare genetic eye disorder which, after many operations, left him blind in his left eye. Dreyfuss and Rain have continued to raise money for ophthalmology centers throughout the United States. After his 1995 divorce from Rain, Dreyfuss married Janelle Lacey in 1999, but they divorced in 2005.
In 2006, Dreyfuss discussed his diagnosis of bipolar disorder in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, in which Fry (who also has the disorder) interviewed Dreyfuss about his experience with the disorder.
Dreyfuss has said he is agnostic.
Dreyfuss and Russian-born Svetlana Erokhin married in 2006 and lived in San Diego, California, although they frequently visited New York City and London, where Dreyfuss once lived. They also lived in Carlsbad, California. In February 2008, they bought a $1.5 million house in Encinitas, California, and plan to renovate the 1970s structure with state-of-the-art green technologies.
On June 10, 2011, Dreyfuss was made a Master Mason “at sight” by the Grand Master of Masons of the District of Columbia at the Washington DC Scottish Rite building, as well as a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason. That evening he spoke at a banquet celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, about the Dreyfuss Initiative, a Research Society promoting civics and enlightenment values to be headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia.
Dreyfuss has gotten into feuds with actors he has worked with, notably Robert Shaw (Jaws) and Bill Murray (What About Bob?). He also did not get along with director Oliver Stone during the filming of W. and referred to him as a fascist.
|1964||Karen||David Rowe III||Episode: “Karen’s Simplicity Complex”|
|1966||Bewitched||Rodney||Episode: “Man’s Best Friend”|
|1967||The Big Valley||Lud Akley||Episode: “Boy Into Man”|
|1968||Judd for the Defense||Larry Corning||Episode: “Weep the Hunter Home”|
|1969||The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||Mark Finley||Episode: “Buried on Page One”|
|1970, 1973||The Mod Squad||Curtis Bell / Caleb Dunne||2 episodes|
|1973||Gunsmoke||Gearshon Gorofsky||Episode: “This Golden Land”|
|1973||A Touch of Grace||Donald||Episode: “The Accident”|
|1991||Prisoner of Honor||Col. Picquart||Television film; also producer|
|1997||Oliver Twist||Fagin||Television film; also producer|
|1999||Lansky||Meyer Lansky||Television film|
|2000||Fail Safe||President of the United States||Television film|
|20012002||The Education of Max Bickford||Max Bickford||22 episodes; also producer
Nominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
|2001||Mr. Dreyfuss Goes To Washington||Himself (host)||TV special on History Channel|
|2001||The Day Reagan Was Shot||Alexander Haig||Television film
Satellite Award for Best Actor Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
|2003||Coast to Coast||Barnaby Pierce||Television film|
|2007||Tin Man||Mystic Man||Miniseries; 3 episodes|
|2007||Ocean of Fear||Narrator||TV documentary|
|2012||Coma||Professor Hillside||Miniseries; 2 episodes|
|2010||Weeds||Warren Schiff||4 episodes
Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television
|2011||Parenthood||Gilliam T. Blount||4 episodes|
|2015||Your Family or Mine||Louis||Series regular; 7 episodes|
|2016||Madoff||Bernie Madoff||Miniseries; 4 episodes|
|2017||Shots Fired||Arlen Cox||Miniseries; 9 episodes|
|1983||Total Abandon||Lenny Keller||Broadway|
|1992||Death and the Maiden||Gerardo Escobar||Broadway|
|2004||Sly Fox||Foxwell J. Sly||Broadway|
|2004||The Producers||Max Bialystock||West End|
|2007||Prophesy and Honor||Congressman Frank R. Reid||Honolulu|