Steven Spielberg may always be remembered as the man who made us afraid to go in the water with his 1975 film “Jaws,” but it was actor Roy Scheider’s perfect performance in the movie that made it visceral. Scheider died yesterday (Feb. 10) after suffering from a form of cancer known as multiple myeloma. He was 75.
Scheider gained fame as an actor and a nomination for an Oscar in “The French Connection,” the 1971 film that looked at the seedy international underworld of street drugs in New York City. Scheider played Det. Buddy Russo opposite Gene Hackman’s Det. Jimmy Doyle, two cops tracking down the drug dealers and their overseas French connection. He is also well noted for his Academy Award winning Best Actor performance for the Bob Fosse autobiographical flick “All That Jazz,” where he was able to put his singing and dancing talent to work.
“Jaws” co-star Richard Dreyfuss upon hearing of Scheider’s passing said, “He was a wonderful guy. He was what I call ‘a knockaround actor.’
“A ‘knockaround actor’ to me is a compliment that means a professional that lives the life of a professional actor and doesn’t’ yell and scream at the fates and does his job and does it as well as he can,” Dreyfuss added.
One of Scheider’s lines from “Jaws,” the first film to ever break that $100 million ceiling and literally creating what we now so familiarly call “the blockbuster,” was “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” Like many quotes from such iconic movies like Star Trek and Star Wars, that sentence from “Jaws” is now part of the American language lexicon.
Scheider went on to star in over 88 films and television programs, many of them hits and box office winners, but he never quite captured the early 1970’s success of his three most important award winning films. He did come close to recapturing that place of prominence with the sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” by playing Dr. Heywood Floyd in “2010: the Year We Make Contact.” His most famous television series was the sci-fi underwater live-action adventure “SeaQuest: DSV.”
Scheider, a hard working actor, even while undergoing treatment for cancer, has two films still due out this year. The crime drama titled “Dark Honeymoon” and the dramatic thriller “Iron Cross.”