Sunday Mail (UK)
There was no Jaws feud, it’s a great white lie
Actor on the myths surrounding shark’s tale
It’s widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
But beset by a temperamental mechanical shark, sinking boats, an inexperienced director and a hard- drinking star, Jaws is also the source of some of the greatest myths in Hollywood folklore.
And as the sole surviving member of the Orca crew, Richard Dreyfuss is keen to clear up one of the most persistent stories... namely that he and Scots co-star Robert Shaw hated each other and had a long-running feud.
In the Spielberg movie, Shaw’s grizzled shark hunter Quint and Dreyfuss’s youthful scientist Hooper frequently clashed, and legend holds that their real-life relationship was just as edgy.
But as he visited Scotland to launch his new movie Astronaut at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the 71- year- old insisted that he and Bond villain Shaw, who grew up in Orkney, only ever had one fall- out and were close for the rest of the 1975 movie, which is getting a re- run in cinemas this summer.
He said: “It’s clearly not true, and where that started I don’t know, maybe a combinat ion of (screenwriter) Carl Gottlieb and Steven but trust me, Robert Shaw wouldn’t countenance that idea of a feud, forget it.”
While Dreyfuss insists they were good pals from day one, there was one moment which almost erupted into violence on board the film’s iconic shark hunting boat, the Orca.
He said: “I don’t know how to hold a grudge. I lost my sense of humour for one afternoon, that’s not a feud – it was very simple and he had my number.
“He was walking down the gangplank holding a drink in his hand and said, ‘Richard, help me out here.’ I said, ‘ Do you really want my help?’ He said he did and I took his drink and I threw it in the water.
“Every drinker on that crew went ‘ooooh’ and then he got his revenge by taking the fire hose
and pointing it at my face. I lost my sense of humour and that lasted about an hour.
“The shoot was chaos but it was all called for. The decision to make the film on the real ocean was the first mistake.”
Dreyfuss and Shaw had become instant pals when they arrived on set in the New England seaside town of Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1974 and he praised his work in Hamlet.
He said: “I knocked on his door, he opened and I said, ‘ Your Claudius was the greatest Claudius ever, it justified the entire play.’ And he said, ‘C’mon in here and have a drink.’ We bonded like crazy.”
Jaws, based on the Peter Benchley book, is back in cinemas for an umpteenth re-release this summer and Dreyfuss is not surprised that it keeps finding new audiences.
Dreyfuss said: “It’s the most successful blockbuster because he touched something primal in all human beings.
“It feels great to still get asked about it – there’s a part of every actor who wants that experience. “People think they’ve seen it 100 times and know everything about it but there’s a zillion things you don’t know and everyone wants to know the secret of Hollywood and of movies.” Dreyfuss followed up Jaws with Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, playing a family man who witnesses a UFO visit and is driven to join them on their spacecraft. It’s a film which he remains fond of and which has a symmetry to his new movie Astronaut, screening today at Edinburgh Filmhouse and on general release later this year. He plays pensioner Angus Stewart, who decides to throw off his care home life by applying to become a commercial space astronaut – trying to follow in the footsteps of Close Encounters character Roy Neary by taking to the stars.
He shot indie movie Astronaut with Scots writer-director Shelagh McLeod last year after falling in love with the script.
He said: “The story of Astronaut is about as close, if any distance at all, to me and my principles and ethics and feelings. It was as if someone had snuck in and lived with me for three months and didn’t tell me. I read the script and we got on Skype together and I said, ‘ Yeah, I’ll do it.’ She hit it right down the centre. There was no reason on earth to say no.”
Shelagh added: “When he said yes, I nearly passed out. He is my favourite actor and one of the greatest in the world and he was wonderful to work with.
“He was the perfect actor to play Angus, and I would have swum the Atlantic to beg him to do it.”
It’s the actor’s second feature released this year, having made The Last Laugh for Netflix.
Af ter a career which has included an Oscar for The Goodbye Girl and a nomination for Mr Holland’s Opus, and having been critically acclaimed for hits such as Stakeout, Once Around, W and What About Bob?, he could be forgiven for sitting back and resting up. But he still looks for interesting parts and loves the thrill of a new adventure.
He said: “I’ve been asked if I’d write an autobiography and I don’t know if I will but I know what the title would be – The Hunt. I am much more comfortable on the hunt than I am having achieved something.”
And when he does reflect on his life, it ’s always with an honesty that his old cast mate Shaw would surely approve of.
He said: “I believe if you have no secrets, no one can hurt you. I came to that as a spiritual revelation. The minute I thought of it, I became a low- down dirty dog and slept with the wrong women and took the wrong drugs and did everything wrong for about three to four years.
“Then I stopped and never did it again. So you’re looking at someone who has no secrets.”
Richard is my favourite actor. I would have swum the Atlantic to beg him to do it – Shelagh McLeod