A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss_470x350

With an entertainment career spanning more than four decades, Academy Award- winning actor Richard Dreyfuss has been one of America’s most versatile and individualistic actors. He is a spokesperson on the issue of media informing policy, legislation, and public opinion, both speaking and writing to express his sentiments in favor of privacy, freedom of speech, democracy, and individual accountability. As a community leader, his current focus and passion is to encourage, revive, elevate and enhance the teaching of civics in American Schools. Dreyfuss was interviewed by actress, director, writer and producer Illeana Douglas. Below are a few highlights from the engaging, funny, and insightful discussion that kept the crowd on their toes in the standing room only crowd:

  • Illeana: “Does that ever stop getting exciting, that standing ovation?” Richard: “No, never. I make my wife do it every morning.”
  • Illeana: “Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on screen?” Dreyfuss: “A Big Valley, with Barbara Stanwyck. At the end of the show I had a billing credit. At the end of the show Stanwyck walked by me and said i was the best actor to ever do this show. By the time the hour was over, when I watched the show with friends I as backed up against the wall in horror and ashamed! Stanwyck surely thought, ‘I better say something nice or that poor kid will kill himself.’”
  • “Once I asked my mother ‘Why were you a Socialist, not Communist?’ ‘Better donuts.’ ‘I get it, your totalitarian psychopath is better than his totalitarian psychopath.’ And that’s when I started to have my own politics. I am intensely pre-partisan, and even more intensely anti-schmuck.”
  • “I want to teach a class where the kids in the class have to see at least 50 films made in america between 1931-1950. And then I’ll teach American culture through those films.”
  • Illeana: “This is going to be fun. I’d like to go through my favorite Richard Dreyfuss traits: cocked head look of skepticism (Dreyfuss mugs the look).” Richard: “As an actor I don’t know why I do what I do. I have that look because the character had that look. I don’t plan out such things.” Illeana: “I also think you’re the best on screen thinker.” Richard: “I wouldn’t do that if I was listening to someone I love, or who is wise. But if I’m listening to someone who is an idiot, it will be reflected in what I do. And I wrote a hunk of Jaws (1975), so I’m listening to see if he’s reading my lines right. So I listen with on objective.”
  • “I really like me, and I’m proud of me.”
  • On Close Encounters or the Third Kind (1977), which Spielberg wrote for someone else.: “I was kidding around and bad mouthing every actor he had in mind, Hackman, Hoffman, de Niro, etc, to get this part. I finally said ‘Steven, you need a child for this.  Only a child could leave his family and go off in the ship.’ Steven said ‘You got the part.’”
  • On The Goodbye Girl (1977) Ileanna Douglas asked: “Are you Elliott Garfield?” Dreyfus responding with obvious affection for his academy award winning role saying, “Let me put it this way. I would be happy to play Elliott Garfield every day for the rest of my life and retire with a Swiss watch.”