Befuddled Irony

Jawing With Richard Dreyfuss
Star: Richard Dreyfuss on tour for anniversary of “Jaws” one of the top 50 films ever made
Location: Carlsen Center, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas
Thursday, April 4, 2019, 7:30 p.m. 

Richard Dreyfuss (born 1947) took center stage this evening and for two hours, talked about his life in show business, actors and actresses he has worked with, films he starred in, and about the film “Jaws,” that no one thought would be made. “We started with no director and no script and went from there.” The term “Summer Blockbuster” started with the film, “Jaws,” and from there came the famous phrase, “We need a bigger boat.” 

Dreyfuss has starred in four of my favorite films, “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Krippendorf’s Tribe” and “Always.” There was much talk about the first two films, and nothing about the last two.  I was a new film critic at the time “Krippendorf’s Tribe” was out and laughed so much at the film screening the other film critics asked me to step into the hallway and close the door. They could not hear the dialogue.  “Always” is personal for anyone who lives in forest fire country and knows the danger that lurks there for fire fighters. 

The main part of the evening was for “Jaws,” and after two hours of discussion between Dreyfuss and the audience, there was a short break and then the showing of the film on a huge screen. It has lost none of its power, even though at the time, the mechanical shark was named “Flaws” for its' failure to move in the water, and later, as “Bruce” when it got its' act together and looked scary. The John Williams music score is haunting in its' own right. Steven Spielberg directed “Jaws” and also did “Close Encounters of the Third Time.” 

The format for discussion began with a question, and from then on, Dreyfuss answered and continued from there. One person did ask what controversial figure did Dreyfuss prefer in depicting, Bernie Madoff or Meyer Lansky.  Dreyfuss said that  Meyer Lansky was easier to portray because he was of the time period of Dreyfuss’ father, as Richard was growing up in Brooklyn. 

Dreyfuss has won two Academy Awards, one for “The Good-bye Girl” (Neil Simon script) and the other for “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” that honored music teachers.  Dreyfuss describes other actors by their voices and how they can reach an audience through the voice. One of his four examples was the late actress, Irene Dunne, who Dreyfuss met early in his movie career, and said she could do anything with her voice.  The next was the late Robert Shaw, who co-starred with Dreyfuss in “Jaws.” He described Shaw as having a large personality, could control his audience and wrote the play “The Man In The Glass Booth.”  It was at this time that Dreyfuss described himself as working in the acting field with “befuddled irony.”  The third actor, also from early in his early career, was the late Charles Laughton who had a rhythm to his voice and once he had that rhythm, he could say anything and the audience would listen. The fourth actor was the late Robin Williams. Dreyfuss describes Williams' work in the film “Aladdin,” as brilliant, because Williams went into a sound booth by himself and created the sound effects and voices as he went along. He describes himself as an Agnostic, has the world’s worst memory and surprised that “What About Bob?” the comedy about mental health, has stood the test of time.  He co-starred with Bill Murray in that film.  

Richard Dreyfuss is on tour throughout the country, and possibly, Canada, doing one or two performances a month.  He began in the Chicago area a month ago, and this college location was his second time on tour. Other stops, with the showing of “Jaws,” will go further west and then back east. Check your local media or online for tour information. Richard Dreyfuss is a natural with an audience. 

As for myself, I got to see one of my favorite actors in action and was not disappointed. Richard Dreyfuss has the type of speaking voice that goes in spurts. There is a running dialogue, then a pause, then a running dialogue, a pause, a few words of thought, a pause, and then a spurt of words. Once you get attuned to this, you grasp what he is reaching for in dialogue. For an action film, like "Jaws," it was just right.  After seeing “Jaws” for the first time, my family wouldn’t go to a seaside beach for years. One never knows…. 

P.S.

Something unusual happened before the performance began. In the lobby was a large table with a police badge from Amityville, and various other "Jaws" memorabilia that people were gazing at. However, no prices, so people assumed whoever had this display would be coming in a few minutes and they waited, and waited and waited. The person finally arrived a few minutes before the performance and said this was "just for show and not for sale." Disappointment with a capital "D" and there were comments.

Copyright 2019 Marie Asner