Fan Expo 2017: Richard Dreyfuss Remembers The Mistakes Of Jaws And Bill Murray
When Richard Dreyfuss arrived at Fan Expo on Friday, he didn’t seem entirely ready to talk about movies. Moderated by InnerSpace’s Ajay Fry, this Q&A lasted around 40 minutes and Drefyfuss spent the first 12 of those minutes rambling about the importance of civics.
This emphasis probably stems from the actor’s skepticism about his understanding of movies, which has been apparent to him since the release of Jaws. “I predicted that it would tank, so that’s how smart I am,” he said. “I didn’t know how films were made, that this film is not going to tank and Steven Spielberg was a genius and all that. I said the same thing about American Graffiti. What’s the big deal? It’s just a little movie. So I’m always… don’t rely on me. I know everything about civics and drugs and sex and history, but not about filmmaking.”
Although Dreyfuss briefly alluded to Another Stakeout and What About Bob? (see below), Jaws is the only movie he discussed at length. Asked what two words come to mind when he thinks of this 1975 classic, he responded without hesitation. “Lots of money—I mean, lots of money—and waiting. It was an experience of waiting because there was no shark and there was no script… the original schedule of the film was May 2nd to June 28th. We left on September 16th, and we were not finished. Most of the day was waiting for a sailboat to get out of the shot. It took an hour and a half. and you only lose hope and pray and sacrifice animals—and then another sailboat.”
Asked about the differences between the movie and the book, Dreyfuss recalled Spielberg’s clear-headed cinematic philosophy. “Steven said he wanted to make what he called ‘a bullet,’” Dreyfuss explained. “He was going to chuck every sub plot: mafia, the affair, the real estate scam, everything. He wanted to make a movie about a shark, so when he asked to meet with me, he said, ‘Don’t read the book.’ And to this day, I have never read the book.”
In spite of Spielberg’s clear vision, Dreyfuss turned down the movie twice, only to abruptly change his mind. “I saw The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which was the first time I’d ever watched me in the lead of a show—an hour and a half, two hours long—and I thought, ‘If this is sold in the United States, I will never work again because I’m terrible.’ And so then I called Steven and begged him for the part. And I begged. And I got the part.”
Speaking of mistakes, Dreyfuss acknowledged that he’s still haunted by his collaboration with Bill Murray on What About Bob? Asked what went wrong, Dreyfuss called the questioner “an as*hole,” and pulled no punches in diagnosing Murray’s shortcomings. “He’s an Irish drunken bully, okay? That’s it. And he’s a better golfer than I am. And he makes me laugh, even though I find him a despicable pig… he’s a schmuck.”