Mr. Dreyfuss’ Opus

MrHollandsOpusPrior to today’s screening of MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS (1995), Richard Dreyfuss sat down with Illeana Douglas for a wide-ranging discussion of his 50-year career.  Illeana is rapidly becoming one of my favorite interviewers—her intelligent questions and quick-witted follow-ups lead to quick, golden nuggets of info, perfect for presenting in bullet form in blogs!  It certainly helps that she and the equally quick-witted Dreyfuss are friends and recent co-stars.  Here are some highlights from today’s discussion:

- When asked if he looks at clips from his films and sees the acting or remembers the behind-the-scenes events of that day’s filming, Dreyfuss said “Both.”  He then told a story about filming Jaws (1975).  In one scene he was supposed to be playing solitaire on the boat but the cards kept blowing away in the wind.  Director Spielberg had the cards glued down.  So the shot as it appears in the film shows Robert Shaw’s hair blowing in a strong wind and the camera pans down to something impossible—Dreyfuss playing cards—“and nobody has ever mentioned it!”

- Of his one-line performance in The Graduate (1967), Dreyfuss noted that every young actor wanted the lead role as Ben and several auditioned.  He knew the part was gone when director Mike Nichols went to New York to see Dustin Hoffman, but Nichols “was such a gentleman, he gave every actor who auditioned a part in the movie.”

- For Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), director Paul Mazursky “…cast me, Bette Midler and Nick [Nolte] and said he cast directly out of the Betty Ford Clinic.”

- When asked if he would ever consider writing his memoirs, Dreyfuss announced “the name of the book I will never write: Steven, Have They Figured Out Yet What I Am Looking Up In Awe At?”

- Steven Spielberg once told Dreyfuss that on Jaws, he felt stupid asking the actors to look at, and react to, something that wasn’t there.  Dreyfuss told him, “You are an authority figure—never say that again!”

- Another Spielberg story: Also during Jaws, and at the height of Watergate, Spielberg got a phone call, hung up and told Dreyfuss, “That was Robert Redford.  He wants me to direct All the President’s Men.  What’s it about?”

- The only part in his career that he “aimed” to get was the part in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).  He wanted the part because he knew the movie would “last forever.”  He got it when he told Spielberg simply, “you need a child,” knowing that he could play the child-like lead character.

- Dreyfuss said he knew actress Teri Garr since he was 18 years old, living next door to her when they were struggling.  He was smitten and “threw pebbles at her window” to get attention.  He “didn’t get to first base, but I’m her friend and I’ll settle for that.”

- Of MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS, Dreyfuss said that it was initially mis-marketed, because “Marketers of film are basically people who have ‘Idea A’ and ‘Idea A’.”  The movie was first sent to glossy magazines to cover, and they gave it the “Cosmopolitan sneer.  MR. HOLLAND was too sweet and simple and they destroyed it.”

- Of his overall career, Richard Dreyfuss stated that he has “No frustration.  I’m blessed.  I spent 50 years doing what I wanted to do.”