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Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in a number of films, television and theater roles since the late 1960s. He is probably best known for his roles in the films Jaws, The Goodbye Girl, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Always, Mr. Holland's Opus, American Graffiti and Krippendorf's Tribe.

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 multiple Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

Early life

Dreyfuss was born Richard Stephen Dreyfus in Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker, the son of Norman, an attorney and restaurateur, and Geraldine, a peace activist. Dreyfuss is Jewish and his surname is of Yiddish origin, believed to originate in the German city of Triermarker, which had a large Jewish population in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The Latin name for the city was "Treveris", of which Dreyfuss is a variant. He commented that he "grew up thinking that Alfred Dreyfusmarker and [he] are of the same family."


Dreyfuss's acting career began during his youth at the Beverly Hills Jewish Center. He debuted in the TV production In Mama's House when he was fifteen. He attended the San Fernando Valley State College (later re-named California State University, Northridgemarker) for a year. He was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and worked 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 like Peyton Place, Gidget, Bewitched and The Big Valley. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he also performed on stage on Broadwaymarker, off-Broadway, repertory, and improvisational theater.

Dreyfuss's first film part was a small, uncredited role in The Graduate and had one line, "Shall I call the cops? I'll call the cops." He was also briefly seen as a stage hand in Valley of the Dolls, in which he had a few lines. 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.

He went on to star in the box office blockbusters Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, both directed by Steven Spielberg.

Dreyfuss won the 1978 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a struggling actor in The Goodbye Girl, becoming the youngest actor to do so. This record has since been surpassed by Adrien Brody.

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 at the scene of a collision between his car and a tree. He entered rehab and eventually made a Hollywoodmarker comeback with the film Down And Out In Beverly Hills in 1986 and Stakeout the following year.

He had a starring role opposite Bill Murray in the 1991 hit comedy What About Bob? as a psychiatrist who goes crazy while trying to cope with a particularly obsessive new patient. While growing up in Beverly Hills, he lived within six blocks of Michael Burns, who became a preeminent expert on the Dreyfus affair and the author of Dreyfus: A Family Affair, 1789-1945. Dreyfuss later worked with Burns as producer and took on the role of Georges Picquart in Prisoner of Honor, a HBO movie about the historical incident released in 1991.

In 1994, Dreyfuss participated in the historic "Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah (Holocaust)" at the Vaticanmarker in the presence of Pope John Paul II, Rav Elio Toaf, chief rabbi of Rome, and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of Italy. 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 on stage. In April 2004, he appeared in the revival of Sly Fox on Broadwaymarker (opposite Eric Stoltz, René Auberjonois, Bronson Pinchot and Elizabeth Berkley).

In 2001/2002, he played Max Bickford in the television drama The Education of Max Bickford.

In November 2004, he was scheduled to appear in The Producers in Londonmarker, but withdrew from the production a week before the 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. Nathan Lane was brought in to replace Dreyfuss in the London production. It later emerged that he'd been fired.

Dreyfuss recorded the voiceover to the famous Apple, Inc.marker, then Apple Computer, Inc.marker, Think Different ad campaign in 1999. The text of the ad begins, "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels..."

In 2006, he appeared as one of the survivors in the 2006 film Poseidon. Dreyfuss portrayed U.S Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's 2008 George W. Bush bio-pic W.

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.

Dreyfuss has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.

Other work

Political activity

Dreyfuss has been outspoken on the issue of media informing policy, legislation, and public opinion in recent years, both speaking and writing to express his sentiments in favor of privacy, freedom of speech, democracy, and individual accountability.

Dreyfuss has organized and promoted campaigns to inform and instruct audiences in what he considers potential erosion of individual rights, a personal initiative he began in 2006, responding to what he believes were violations of individual rights under the presidential administration of George W. Bush. On February 16, 2006, Dreyfuss spoke at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.marker 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. Dreyfuss currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Centermarker in Philadelphiamarker. In 2007, Dreyfuss appeared in the youth voting documentary film 18 in '08.

Academic life

Richard Dreyfuss has semi-retired from acting, and is involved in a nation-wide enterprise to encourage the teaching of American history in American primary schools. Currently, he is a Senior Associate Member of St. Antony's College, University of Oxfordmarker.


In 1995 Dreyfuss co-authored with science fiction writer Harry Turtledove the novel The Two Georges, an alternate history/mystery piece set in the year 1996 of an alternate timeline where the American Revolution was peacefully avoided. The painting that symbolizes the union between North America and Britain is stolen by terrorists, and officers of the Royal North American Mounted Police must find it before it is destroyed.

Personal life

Dreyfuss married writer-producer Jeramie Rain in the early 1980's. With her he had three children: Emily (1983), Benjamin (1986), and Harry (1990). His eldest son, Benjamin, was born with a malignant form of cancer in his left eye. Dreyfuss and Rain have continued to raise money for ophthalmology centers throughout the United States ever since.

Dreyfuss's mother died on October 19, 2000 due to complications from a stroke.

Dreyfuss suffers from bipolar disorder. In 2006, he appeared in Stephen Fry's documentary, Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, in which Fry (who also has the disorder) interviewed him about his life.

On August 9, 2008, it was reported that Dreyfuss is suing his father and uncle over a 24-year-old loan he claims was never repaid. He says he gave his relatives USD$870,000 in 1984 when they owned an interest in a Los Angeles office building. In court papers filed on August 8, 2008, he claims the loan is still outstanding and that his uncle, Gilbert, has refused to turn over financial records. He is reported to be seeking repayment of the loan, plus interest and punitive damages.

Dreyfuss and Russian-born Svetlana Erokhin married in 2006 and have lived in San Diego County since then, although they travel frequently to Los Angeles and London, where Dreyfuss once lived. They initially lived in Carlsbad, Californiamarker. In February 2008, they bought a $1.5 million house in the rural community of Olivenhain in eastern Encinitas, Californiamarker, and plan to renovate the 1970s structure with state-of-the-art green technologies.


Year Film Role Notes
1967 Valley of the Dolls Assistant stage manager uncredited
The Graduate Boarding House Resident uncredited
1968 The Young Runaways Terry
1969 Hello Down There Harold Webster
1973 American Graffiti Curt Henderson Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Dillinger Baby Face Nelson
1974 The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Duddy
The Second Coming of Suzanne Clavius
Inserts Boy Wonder
1975 Jaws Matt Hooper Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1976 Victory at Entebbe Colonel Yonatan 'Yonni' Netanyahu
1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind Roy Neary Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actor
The Goodbye Girl Elliott Garfield Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor

1978 The Big Fix Moses Wine
1980 The Competition Paul Dietrich
1981 Whose Life Is It Anyway? Ken Harrison
1984 The Buddy System Joe
1986 Down and Out in Beverly Hills David 'Dave' Whiteman
Stand by Me The adult Gordie LaChance, narrating
1987 Tin Men Bill 'BB' Babowsky
Stakeout Det. Chris Lecce
Nuts Aaron Levinsky Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1988 Moon Over Parador Jack Noah/President Alphonse Simms
1989 Let It Ride Jay Trotter
Always Pete Sandich
1990 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead The Player
Postcards from the Edge Doctor Frankenthal
1991 Once Around Sam Sharpe
Prisoner of Honor Col. Picquart
What About Bob? Dr. Leo Marvin
1993 Lost in Yonkers Louie Kurnitz
Another Stakeout Detective Chris Lecce
1994 Silent Fall Dr. Jake Rainer
1995 The Last Word Larry
The American President Senator Bob Rumson
Mr. Holland's Opus Glenn Holland Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
1996 James and the Giant Peach Centipede voice
Mad Dog Time Vic
1997 Night Falls on Manhattan Sam Vigoda
Oliver Twist Fagin
1998 Krippendorf's Tribe Prof. James Krippendorf
2000 The Crew Bobby Bartellemeo/Narrator
2001 The Old Man Who Read Love Stories Antonio Bolivar Nominated — Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Best Actor
Who Is Cletis Tout? Micah Donnelly
The Education of Max Bickford Max Bickford TV series
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
The Day Reagan Was Shot Alexander Haig TV 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
2004 Silver City Chuck Raven
2006 Poseidon Richard Nelson
2007 Tin Man Mystic Man TV miniseries
2008 Signs of the Time Narrator
W. Dick Cheney
America Betrayed Narrator
2009 My Life in Ruins Irv
Leaves of Grass Pug Rothbaum
2010 Piranha 3-D TBA


  1. Film biography
  2. Jacobs, Andrea. Richard Dreyfuss at middle age: A rebellious Jew finds his own wisdom. The Jewish Advocate. March 1995.
  3. Academy Award Winning Actor Richard Dreyfuss Speaks at BHCC. PR Newswire.
  4. Brozan, Nadine. Chronicle. New York Times. 20 November 1991.
  5. Biography
  6. Adam, Karla; "My musical hell";; January 21, 2005
  7. "Dreyfuss in London stage return" BBC News November 3, 2008
  8. "Richard Dreyfuss is Dick Cheney"'; The Hollywood Reporter; May 22, 2008
  11. Hollywood Walk of Fame; Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
  12. Zweyner, Astrid. Oscar-winner Dreyfuss campaigns against "shaped news" . 27 April 2006.
  13. The Education of Richard Dreyfuss - Boston Globe
  14. Summary and video footage of speech
  15. Morris, Michele AARP Richard Dreyfuss's New 'Opus'
  16. National Constitution Center - Near Independence Hall in Historic Philadelphia
  17. YouTube - 18 in '08 Trailer
  18. Susan Schindehette. "Risen from the Ashes, Richard Dreyfuss Faces His Family's Pain with Strength, Not Self-Pity" People March 04, 1991
  19. eOnline Profile
  20. Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.
  21. "Jaws star sues family over loan," BBC. August 9, 2008.
  22. Tanya Mannes. "Earth-friendly house in works" Sign on San Diego; March 9, 2009

External links

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