Richard Dreyfuss on Spielberg and Stone, Hollywood and the almighty dollar

Still the curmudgeon after all these years, Richard Dreyfuss - who's in Dublin this week for the JDIFF - hasn’t lost any of his appetite for bashing Hollywood and colleagues who irritate him.

Richard Dreyfuss: “Everyone who has worked above the line knows money interferes with every creative act. They are only interested in what they can monetise. It makes you want to vomit after a while”

Richard Dreyfuss: “Everyone who has worked above the line knows money interferes with every creative act. They are only interested in what they can monetise. It makes you want to vomit after a while”

Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 00:00

It seems that Richard Dreyfuss has lost little of his youthful energy. Nor has he softened. Having appeared in a film that, for a year or two, was the most successful of all time (something about a shark, as I recall), he knows a thing or two about the commercial end of Hollywood.

That doesn’t mean he’s comfortable with the corrupting influence of the dollar.

“I once said to a young woman I knew: ‘You know that LA chews you up and spits you out? Get out of here!’ She did and she made a life for herself,” he splutters. “Everyone who has worked above the line knows money interferes with every creative act. They are only interested in what they can monetise. It makes you want to vomit after a while.”

Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's 'W'

Now 66, fluid and articulate, Dreyfuss offers an arresting combination of warmth and irascibility. That half-chuckle in his voice is still there. But you get the strong sense that he is not a man to be trifled with.

The veteran actor is at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival to receive a Volta Award for lifetime achievement and to attend a screening of his new film, Cas & Dylan . He will also be on hand for a showing of Steven Spielberg’s indestructible Jaws .

“I was in Dublin to shoot Oliver Twist a few years back,” he muses. “I had the most amazing driver. I remember him showing me all the bullet holes. An amazing time.”

There’s a lot to celebrate. Richard Dreyfuss was among those talented, off-centre actors – one thinks also of Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman – who profited from the shift away to less-classical Hollywood modes in the early 1970s. Though not an obvious choice for leading man, he burnt up the screen in American Graffiti, Jaws and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind . An Oscar came his way in 1977 for The Goodbye Girl . In recent years, when not arguing for liberal causes such as the proper teaching of civics in US schools, he has taken strong roles in pictures such as Oliver Stone’s W.

Mention of that film sets his juices flowing again. I wonder if Stone was making a little joke when, in his study of George W Bush, he cast such a famous liberal to play Dick Cheney.

“Well actually, I was hired because I was the best actor,” Dreyfuss says with no sense of reprove. “I don’t want to put Oliver down but, once he took all the politics out and made it about a contest between father and son, there was no story left. There are no historical legs. Oliver and I were at loggerheads about that and we still are. He screamed that I was the worst actor he’s ever worked with. I’d held up the production and so on.”

Dreyfuss is establishing some momentum here.

“I told him he had made one strategic error: the press junket is yet to come. I told the press exactly what I told you.”

But Stone enjoys that sort of fight. Does he not?

“Oh, no, no. He called my agent and said: ‘He’d better stop this because we’re planning an Oscar campaign.’ And she said: ‘What? For the worst actor you’ve ever worked with.’ Ha ha!

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