Richard Dreyfuss was a guest at our 2018 Nickel City Con event. To see this year’s lineup, click here.
Richard Dreyfuss is an award-winning American actor best known for his leading roles in blockbuster films during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Born Richard Stephen Dreyfus (he added the second ‘s’ later in life) in Brooklyn, New York, Dreyfuss spent his early childhood in Queens before moving to Los Angeles at the age 9. He attended Beverly Hills High School with Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks, and acted in community plays as a teenager.
Dreyfuss briefly attended San Fernando Valley State College (now known as California State University) but was booted after starting a contentious argument with a teacher. Because he registered as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, he spent two years fulfilling an alternate term of service as a hospital clerk. When his time was up, he found an agent and began appearing in TV sitcoms like Bewitched and Gidget, as well as performing in Broadway and off-Broadway Plays.
Dreyfuss’s first film role was an uncredited part at the end of Valley of the Dolls (1967), followed by a single but memorable line in The Graduate (1967) – “Shall I get the cops? I’ll get the cops”. The next year he nabbed a more substantial role in The Young Runaways (1968). He started to gain attention for his role as mobster George ‘Baby Face’ Nelson in Dillinger (1973). His breakout performance came as the college-bound Curt Henderson in the critically acclaimed George Lucas coming-of-age film American Graffiti (1973), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor.
By the mid to late 1970s Dreyfuss was established as a major star, playing leads for Steven Spielberg in two of the top-grossing films of that decade – as Oceanographer Matt Hooper in Jaws (1975) and as the UFO encountered electrical lineman Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). He won the 1978 Oscar for Best Actor at the 50th Academy Awards ceremony for his portrayal of a struggling actor in Neal Simon’s The Goodbye Girl (1977), becoming the youngest actor to do so at the time, a record that stood for 25 years.
He worked sporadically in the early 1980s until his comeback performances in the movies Stand by Me (1986), the Rob Reiner coming-of-age classic adapted from the Stephen King novella The Body and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), the first R-rated movie from Walt Disney Studios. In 1989, Dreyfuss reunited with Steven Spielberg for the romantic comedy-drama Always, notable for being the final film role for Audrey Hepburn. With additional hits like the crime-comedy Stakeout (1987) and as psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin in What About Bob? (1991), he made his way back to stardom.
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; a determined, inspiring music teacher coping with a deaf son and the demands of his career in Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). Dreyfuss recorded the voiceover for Steve Jobs and Apple Computer’s ‘Think Different’ ad campaign in 1997.
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. In 2006, he appeared as one of the survivors in the film Poseidon. More recently, Dreyfuss portrayed Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone’s film W (2008), about the life of President George W. Bush, and appeared on the TV shows Weeds and Parenthood. While continuing to act, Dreyfuss has also become politically active and spends his time championing individual rights, youth voting, and encourages teaching American history to children in elementary school.
Dreyfuss has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. He was among 99 other stars at the 2012 Academy Awards – Night of 100 Stars. Dreyfuss lives with bipolar disorder, a fact he discusses in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive (2006). He has three children (Emily, Benjamin, and Harry) and currently resides in San Diego, California.
Richard Dreyfuss’s appearance was courtesy of MAB Celebrity Services