Richard Dreyfuss

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Richard Dreyfuss
Richard Dreyfuss Cannes 2013.jpg
Dreyfuss at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival
Richard Stephen Dreyfus

(1947-10-29) October 29, 1947 (age 72)
Years active1964–present
m. 1983; div. 1995)
Janelle Lacey
m. 1999; div. 2005)
Svetlana Erokhin
m. 2006)
Children3 (including Ben Dreyfuss)

Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (/ˈdrfəs/; Dreyfus;[1] born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in popular films between the 1970s and 1990s, including American Graffiti, Jaws, Stand by Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Goodbye Girl, Tin Men, Stakeout, Always, What About Bob?, and Mr. Holland's Opus.

Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 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 Miniseries or Television Movie categories.

Early life[edit]

Dreyfuss was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Norman Dreyfus (1920–2013), an attorney, restaurateur and owner of a plastics company originally from a "violent gang culture in Brooklyn"[2] and Geraldine (née Robbins; 1921–2000),[3] a peace activist. Norman Dreyfus suffered from the debilitating physical effects of being caught in a mortar explosion at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, requiring the use of crutches, canes, and special footwear provided by the Army for the rest of his life. He left the family when his son was 21 years old, and remarried more than once; he and his son were not on speaking terms at the time of his death.[4]

Dreyfuss was raised in the Bayside area of Queens, New York.[5] His family is Jewish.[6][7] He has commented that he "grew up thinking that Alfred Dreyfus and [he] are from the same family."[8] His father disliked New York, and moved the family first to Europe,[clarification needed] and later to Los Angeles, California, when Dreyfuss was nine.[9][10] Dreyfuss attended Beverly Hills High School.[10]


Dreyfuss and producer Allan Carr at the Governor's Ball after 1989 Academy Awards

Dreyfuss began acting in his youth, at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Arts Center and the Westside Jewish Community Center, under drama teacher Bill Miller.[10][11] 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 appeared in the play The Time of Your Life, which was revived on March 17, 1972 at the Huntington Hartford Theater in Los Angeles, and directed by Edwin Sherin.[12][13]

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.[10] Dreyfuss played his first lead role in the Canadian film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), receiving positive reviews, including praise from Pauline Kael.[10]

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.[10] 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.[10][14][15] He entered rehabilitation and eventually made a Hollywood comeback with the films Down And Out In Beverly Hills in 1986[10] and Stakeout the following year. Dreyfuss had an important cameo 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 (played by his The Buddy System co-star Wil Wheaton), 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.

Dreyfuss in 1997

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).[10] 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, René Auberjonois, Bronson Pinchot and Elizabeth Berkley).

Dreyfuss recorded the voiceover for the Apple Computer "Think Different" ad campaign in 1997.[16]

Dreyfuss at the Big Apple Convention, 2008

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.[17] Dreyfuss was eventually fired from the production. He made his West End debut at The Old Vic in 2009.[18]

In 2006, he appeared as Richard Nelson, a gay architect and one of the survivors in the film Poseidon.[19] Dreyfuss portrayed U.S Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's 2008 George W. Bush bio-pic W.[20]

In early 2009, he appeared in the play Complicit by Joe Sutton at London's Old Vic theatre. The production was directed by the theatre's artistic director, Kevin Spacey. Dreyfuss's performance was subject to some controversy, owing to his use of an earpiece onstage, reportedly because of his inability to learn his lines in time.[21][22] 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.[23]

In 2010 he played Matt Hooper in Piranha 3D.[24]

Dreyfuss was inducted as a "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 10, 1996. It is located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.[25]

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.[26]

In 2014 he appeared with best-selling Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White in a documentary entitled "Lincoln's Greatest Speech", highlighting Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, appearing as host of the program and reciting Lincoln's speech on camera.

On February 18, 2015, it was announced that Dreyfuss would portray Bernie Madoff in an upcoming miniseries. The first episode was telecast on February 3, 2016, co-starring Blythe Danner.[27][28][29]

On September 25, 2017, it was announced that The Last Laugh will be headlined by Richard Dreyfuss, Chevy Chase and Andie MacDowell,[30][31] and it was released on Netflix on January 11, 2019.[32]

Other work[edit]

The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative[edit]

Dreyfuss seeks to revive Civics education to teach future generations about the power of their citizenship and the principles that hold America together.[33] In 2006, he created The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative (TDCI).[34][35] 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.[36] TDCI is a 501(c)3 designated organization, recognized as of 2008.[37]

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.[38] On November 17, 2006, Dreyfuss appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher as a panel member to discuss teaching Civics in schools.[39] He formerly served on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.[40] In 2007, Dreyfuss appeared in the youth voting documentary film 18 in '08.[41] 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.[42]

Dreyfuss was also an advisor to The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation.[43]


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.[44] In 2011 and 2014, Dreyfuss was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board.

Books and Articles[edit]

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.[45] 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.

In 2015, Dreyfuss, Dr. Russ Porter, Dr. Kellie Cude, and Dr. Stephen Anderson, published an article on "The Dreyfuss Civics Curriculum: A National Model for Civics Education in Elementary and Secondary Schools." From the article, hundreds of teachers have brought civics education back into their classroom using the Dreyfuss Civics Curriculum and continuing the discussion for a new generation of U.S. Citizens on how to improve Civics Education.

Personal life[edit]

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.[46]

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.[47]

Dreyfuss is agnostic.[48]

Dreyfuss and Russian-born Svetlana Erokhin married in 2006 and as of February 2020 they live in San Diego, California,[49] 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 green technologies.[50]

In 2017, writer Jessica Teich accused Dreyfuss of sexual harassment during the filming of an ABC special. Dreyfuss denied the allegations. He said he had been overly flirtatious in his past, and that he regretted that behavior, but he emphasized that he "value[s] and respect[s] women" and is "not an assaulter."[51]

Dreyfuss has clashed with some of the difficult people he has worked with, notably actors Robert Shaw and Bill Murray, who costarred with him in Jaws and What About Bob? respectively, and filmmaker Oliver Stone, who directed him in W.[52]



Year Film Role Notes
1967 Valley of the Dolls Assistant stage manager Uncredited
1967 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
1973 Dillinger Baby Face Nelson
1974 The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Duddy Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1974 The Second Coming of Suzanne Clavius
1975 Inserts The Boy Wonder
1975 Jaws Matt Hooper Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind Roy Neary Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
1977 The Goodbye Girl Elliott Garfield Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
David di Donatello Award 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 Also producer
1980 The Competition Paul Dietrich Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
1981 Whose Life Is It Anyway? Ken Harrison
1983 The Buddy System Joe
1986 Down and Out in Beverly Hills David "Dave" Whiteman
1986 Stand by Me Narrator/Gordie LaChance (adult)
1987 Tin Men Bill 'BB' Babowsky
1987 Stakeout Det. Chris Lecce
1987 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
1989 Always Pete Sandich
1990 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead The Player Pasinetti Award for Best Actor
1990 Postcards from the Edge Doctor Frankenthal
1991 Once Around Sam Sharpe Also co-producer
1991 What About Bob? Leo Marvin
1993 Lost in Yonkers Louie Kurnitz
1993 Another Stakeout Detective Chris Lecce
1994 Silent Fall Jake Rainer
1995 The Last Word Larry
1995 The American President Senator Bob Rumson
1995 Mr. Holland's Opus Glenn Holland Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1996 James and the Giant Peach Mr. Centipede (voice)
1996 Mad Dog Time Vic
1997 Night Falls on Manhattan Sam Vigoda
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
2001 Who Is Cletis Tout? Micah Donnelly
2001 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys Scoop T. Snowman (voice)
2004 Silver City Chuck Raven
2006 Poseidon Richard Nelson
2008 Signs of the Time Narrator Documentary
2008 W. Dick Cheney
2008 America Betrayed Narrator Documentary
2009 My Life in Ruins Irv
2009 Leaves of Grass Pug Rothbaum
2009 The Lightkeepers Seth Also executive producer
2010 Piranha 3D Matt Hooper (Credited as "Matthew Boyd") Cameo appearance
2010 Red Alexander Dunning
2013 Paranoia Francis Cassidy
2013 Cas and Dylan Cas Pepper
2014 Very Good Girls Danny
2014 Squatters David
2015 Zipper George Hiller
2018 Book Club George
2018 Bayou Caviar Yuri
2019 The Last Laugh Buddy Green
2019 Polar Porter
2019 Daughter of the Wolf Father
2019 Astronaut Angus
TBA Killing Winston Jones Winston Jones
TBA Spinning Gold Morris Levy Filming


Year Work Role Notes
1964 Karen David Rowe III Episode: "Karen's Simplicity Complex"
1965 Peyton Place Cap and Gown Student (Uncredited) Episode: 1/94
1966 Gidget Norman Episode: "Ego-a-Go-Go"
1966 Bewitched Rodney Episode: "Man's Best Friend"
1967 The Big Valley Lud Akley Episode 18, S 2: "Boy Into Man" (16 Jan. 1967)
1967 That Girl Johnny Arthur; Waiter Episode 22, S 1: "Paper Hats and Everything" (9 Feb. 1967)
1968 Judd, for the Defense Larry Corning Episode: "Weep the Hunter Home"
1969 The Ghost & 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"
1973 Me Greg Hollywood Television Theater; later retitled Untold Damage
1976 Victory at Entebbe Colonel Yonatan 'Yoni' Netanyahu Television film
1987 Funny, You Don't Look 200: A Constitutional Vaudeville Himself (host) TV special on ABC
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
2001–2002 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 Family Guy Himself Episode: "Peter-assment"
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
2017 Hit the Road James Episode: "Gone Daddy, Gone"
2020 The Great British Bake Off Himself Contestant in the Stand Up To Cancer Celebrity Charity Special


Year Work Role Notes
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

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1974 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy American Graffiti Nominated
1974 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Nominated
1976 BAFTA Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Jaws Nominated
1977 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Actor The Goodbye Girl Won
1978 Academy Awards Best Actor The Goodbye Girl Won
1978 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy The Goodbye Girl Won
1978 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor The Goodbye Girl Won
1978 Saturn Awards Best Actor Close Encounters of the Third Kind Nominated
1979 BAFTA Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role The Goodbye Girl Won
1981 Razzie Awards Worst Actor The Competition Nominated
1988 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nuts Nominated
1996 Academy Awards Best Actor Mr. Holland's Opus Nominated
1996 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Mr. Holland's Opus Nominated
2002 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film The Day Reagan Was Shot Won
2002 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie The Day Reagan Was Shot Nominated
2002 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series The Education of Max Bickford Nominated
2004 Film Critics Circle of Australia Best Actor The Old Man Who Read Love Stories Nominated
2010 Ride of Fame[53] Ride of Fame Life's work Won
2011 Saturn Awards Best Guest Starring Role on Television Weeds Won
2015 FEST Belgrade Winner Award for lifetime contribution to the art of film Won


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  33. ^ TDCI Website
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  39. ^ "National Retired Teachers Association".
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External links[edit]