Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss

Born Richard Stephen Dreyfus
(1947-10-29) October 29, 1947
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Residence Encinitas, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1964–present
  • Jeramie Rain (m. 1983; div. 1995)
  • Janelle Lacey (m. 1999; div. 2005)
  • Svetlana Erokhin (m. 2006)
Children 3 with Rain

Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (/ˈdrfəs/; Dreyfus;[1] born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in American Graffiti, Jaws, Stand By Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Goodbye Girl, Always, and Mr. Holland's Opus.

Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1977 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 Television Movie or Miniseries categories.

Early life

Dreyfuss was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Geraldine Dreyfus (née Robbins; 1921-2000),[2] a peace activist, and Norman Dreyfus (1920-2013), an attorney and restaurateur,[3] and was raised in the Bayside area of Queens, New York.[4] Dreyfuss was born Jewish.[5][6] He has commented that he "grew up thinking that Alfred Dreyfus and [he] are from the same family."[7] His father disliked New York, and moved the family first to Europe, and later to Los Angeles, California, when Dreyfuss was nine.[8][9] Dreyfuss attended Beverly Hills High School.[9]


Dreyfuss began acting in his youth, at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Arts Center and Westside Jewish Community Center, under drama teacher Bill Miller.[9][10] 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, Peyton Place, Gidget, That Girl, Bewitched, 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.[11][12]

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. 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.[9] Dreyfuss played his first lead role in the Canadian film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), receiving positive reviews, including praise from Pauline Kael.[9]

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.[9] 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.[9][13][14] He entered rehabilitation and eventually made a Hollywood comeback with the films Down And Out In Beverly Hills in 1986[9] and Stakeout the following year. Dreyfuss also starred 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, who narrates the film. In 1988, he reunited with director Paul Mazursky to star in the political farce Moon Over Parador.

Dreyfuss (left) and Allan Carr at the Governor's Ball party after the 1989 Academy Awards.

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.

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 Toaf, 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).[9] 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 to the Apple, Inc., then Apple Computer, Inc., "Think Different" ad campaign in 1997.[15]

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.[16] Dreyfuss was eventually fired from the production, though he would return in 2008.[17]

In 2006, he appeared as one of the survivors in the film Poseidon. Dreyfuss portrayed U.S Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's 2008 George W. Bush bio-pic W.[18]

Dreyfuss at the Big Apple Convention, June 8, 2008.

In early 2009, he appeared in the play Complicit (directed by Kevin Spacey) in London's Old Vic theatre. His participation in the play was subject to much controversy, owing to his use of an earpiece on stage, reportedly because of his inability to learn his lines in time.[19][20] 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.[21]

Dreyfuss has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24][25][26]

Other work

The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative

The Academy award-winning actor aims to revive civic education in order to teach future generations about the power of their citizenship and the principles that hold America together.[27] In 2006, Dreyfuss created The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative (TDCI), a non-profit and pre-partisan organization that advocates for the teaching of civics in United States classrooms.[28][29] TDCI's mission is to revitalize and enhance the teaching of civics in American public education in order to empower future generations with the critical thinking skills needed to fulfill the vast potential of American citizenship.[30] TDCI is a 501(c)3 designated organization, recognized as of 2008.[31]

Dreyfuss is impassioned regarding the need for increased civics in American education, and spent time studying at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.[31] He understands how important the political structure of America is and how America is a nation dependent upon unique ideas and values established in the Enlightenment.[27] These values are the principles that make up the Constitution, its Preamble, and the Bill of Rights.

Dreyfuss has made numerous public appearances since the organization's founding in order 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 national discussion on impeachment charges against U.S. President George W. Bush.[32] On November 17, 2006, Dreyfuss appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher as a panel member to discuss teaching civics in schools.[33] He formerly served on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.[34] In 2007, Dreyfuss appeared in the youth voting documentary film 18 in '08.[35] 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 in order to support the cause.[36]

Dreyfuss was also an advisor to the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation.[37]


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.[38]


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. 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.

Personal life

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.[39]

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.[40]

Dreyfuss has said he is agnostic.[41]

Dreyfuss and Russian-born Svetlana Erokhin married in 2006 and lived in San Diego, California, 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 state-of-the-art green technologies.[42]

On June 10, 2011, Dreyfuss was made a Master Mason "at sight" by the Grand Master of Masons of the District of Columbia at the Washington DC Scottish Rite building, as well as a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason. That evening he spoke at a banquet celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, about the Dreyfuss Initiative, a Research Society promoting civics and enlightenment values to be headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia.

On-set feuds

Dreyfuss has gotten into feuds with actors he has worked with, notably Robert Shaw (Jaws) and Bill Murray (What About Bob?).[43][44][45] He also did not get along with director Oliver Stone and referred to him as a fascist.[46]



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
1976 Victory at Entebbe Colonel Yonatan 'Yoni' Netanyahu
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
1984 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? Dr. Leo Marvin
1993 Lost in Yonkers Louie Kurnitz
1993 Another Stakeout Detective Chris Lecce
1994 Silent Fall Dr. 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 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 only
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[47] (Credited as "Matthew Boyd") Cameo appearance
2010 RED Alexander Dunning
2013 Paranoia Francis Cassidy
2013 Cas & Dylan Dr. Cas Pepper
2014 Very Good Girls Danny
2014 Squatters David Direct-to-video
2015 Zipper George Hiller


Year Work Role Notes
1966 Bewitched Rodney TV series 1 episode
1966 Gidget Durf the Drag TV series 1 episode
1967 The Big Valley Lud Akley TV series 1 episode
1968 Judd for the Defense Larry Corning TV series 1 episode
1969 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Mark Finley TV series season 1 episode 21
1970 The Mod Squad Curtis Bell TV series 1 episode
1973 A Touch of Grace Donald TV series, episode "The Accident"
1973 Gunsmoke Gearshon Gorofsky This Golden Land - Season 18, Episode 24
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 The Education of Max Bickford Max Bickford TV series; also producer
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
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 TV miniseries
2007 Ocean of Fear Narrator TV documentary
2012 Coma Professor Hillside Television miniseries
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
2016 Madoff Bernie Madoff Miniseries
TBA Shots Fired Arlen Cox Upcoming TV series


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

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 [48] 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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  2. eOnline Profile
  3. Film biography
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  5. Jacobs, Andrea. "Richard Dreyfuss at middle age: A rebellious Jew finds his own wisdom". The Jewish Advocate. March 1995.
  6. Academy Award Winning Actor Richard Dreyfuss Speaks at BHCC. PR Newswire.
  7. Brozan, Nadine. "Chronicle". The New York Times. November 20, 1991.
  8. "Richard Dreyfuss biography and filmography". Tribute. accessed October 3, 2011.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Stated on Inside the Actors Studio, 2000
  10. Personal interview
  11. "WorldCat". Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  12. "Hollywood Beat". The Afro American. April 8, 1972. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  13. "Actor faces cocaine charge". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). wire services. November 13, 1982. p. 2A.
  14. Biography
  15. "Touching: Steve Jobs Voicing One Of Apple's Iconic 'Think Different' Campaign Commercials". Geekologie. October 7, 2011
  16. Adam, Karla. "My musical hell". The Guardian. January 21, 2005
  17. "Dreyfuss in London stage return", BBC News, November 3, 2008.
  18. "Richard Dreyfuss is Dick Cheney",, The Hollywood Reporter, May 22, 2008.
  19. Thompson, Warwick. "Richard Dreyfuss, Sporting Earpiece, Triumphs in New Play", Bloomberg News. January 29, 2009.
  20. Burgess, Kaya; Malvern, Jack (January 29, 2009). "Wired for sound how Richard Dreyfuss remembers his lines". The Times. London, UK. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  21. Joyce Eng. "Richard Dreyfuss to Appear on Weeds".
  22. Hollywood Walk of Fame; Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
  23. Zucker, Bill. "The 'BILL ZUCKER SHOW' takes to the Oscars Red Carpet!!" on YouTube. March 19, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  24. "Richard Dreyfuss To Play Bernie Madoff In ABC Miniseries".
  25. Strohm, Emily (June 26, 2015). "First Look: See Blythe Danner and Richard Dreyfuss as Ruth and Bernie Madoff". Time Inc. People Magazine.
  26. Petski, Denise (June 26, 2015). "'Madoff' Miniseries: Blythe Danner & Richard Dreyfuss As Ruth & Bernie Madoff – First Look". Penske Business Media.
  27. 1 2 TDCI Website
  28. "Special Report: Actor Richard Dreyfuss says America needs civics lesson". WorldNow and KUSI. KUSI News. August 27, 2014.
  29. Associated, Press (August 21, 2014). "Richard Dreyfuss: Politics Should Be Noble Calling". CBS News. The Associated Press.
  30. TDCI website
  31. 1 2 Huffington Post Article on Richard Dreyfuss
  32. Summary and video footage of speech
  33. Morris, Michele AARP Richard Dreyfuss's New 'Opus'
  34. National Constitution Center – Near Independence Hall in Historic Philadelphia
  35. 18 in '08 Trailer on YouTube
  36. Richard Dreyfuss appears on Huckabee
  37. Community Symphony Raises Funds for Hurricane Katrina Victims
  38. Zweyner, Astrid (April 27, 2006). "Oscar-winner Dreyfuss campaigns against .shaped news.". Reuters.
  39. Schindehette, Susan. "Risen from the Ashes, Richard Dreyfuss Faces His Family's Pain with Strength, Not Self-Pity", People March 4, 1991
  40. Owen, Jonathan (September 17, 2006). "Stephen Fry: My battle with mental illness". London: The Independent. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  41. Ballasy, Nicholas (January 27, 2011). "Actor Richard Dreyfuss: 'If There's a God,' Politically Uncivil 'Guys Are in Trouble'". Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  42. Mannes, Tanya. "Earth-friendly house in works". Sign on San Diego. March 9, 2009
  43. Lambie, Ryan (September 5, 2012). "The production nightmares that made Jaws a classic". Dennis Publishing. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  44. Rabin, Nathan (October 8, 2009). "Richard Dreyfuss". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  45. Meyers, Kate (March 19, 1993). "A Bill Murray filmography". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  46. "Oliver Stone Hits Back At Richard Dreyfuss Over Fascist Remarks". June 13, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  48. Photo Flash: Ride of Fame Honors Richard Dreyfuss Broadway World. November 5, 2010.
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