JAWS Star Roy Scheider Dies at 75

One of the brightest lights of the 70's Cinema Renaissance, Roy Scheider followed up the blockbuster Jaws with 2010, Seaquest and The Punisher.
"Most actors aren't appreciated properly until they are dead," noted RYAN GILBY at Guardian Unlimited (UK). "Roy Scheider is the latest addition to that category."

A classically trained stage actor who became a movie star in the 70s and later a venerable character player, two-time Oscar nominee Scheider died on Sunday afternoon at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock. The hospital did not release the cause of death, but spokesperson Leslie Taylor said 75-year-old Scheider had been treated for multiple myeloma at the hospital's Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy for the past two years.

Scheider enjoyed a multifaceted, 40-year acting career, but he always will be best remembered as Police Chief Martin Brody, the unlikely hero of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 breakthrough hit Jaws.

"I think anyone of my generation grew up with Jaws being one of your first horror films," wrote BRAD BREVET at Rope of Silcon, in his tribute to the actor.

Among his many movie and TV roles was a significant number in the genres of sci-fi and horror, including the Spielberg-produced series SeaQuest DSV, which he headlined as Captain Nathan Bridger.

Scheider was born to an Orange, N.J., auto mechanic on 10 November, 1932. At 17, he began swimming and boxing in the New Jersey Diamond Gloves Competition, where he acquired his tough-guy nose. Having earned a history degree, he served three years in the U.S. Air Force, then returned to his alma mater, Franklin and Marshall, to star in a production of Richard III. His performance was reviewed by the New York Times, bringing him to the attention of New York public theater impresario Joseph Papp, who gave Scheider his first professional gig, as Mercurio in a 1961 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Romeo and Juliet.

During the '60s, Scheider appeared in a number of stage productions, including a Broadway revival of Tartuffe. While continuing to work onstage, he made his movie debut in The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964), a horror film from the prolific schlockmeister Del Tenney. After more low-budget pictures, he finally landed a juicy role as a pimp in the 1971 suspense flick Klute.

It was his first of two Oscar-nominated roles, for William Friedkin's 1971 thriller The French Connection, that prompted producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown to cast Scheider as the lead in Jaws. Widely hailed as the film that launched the era of the Hollywood blockbuster, Jaws also was the first movie to earn $100 million at the box office.

"The quality that distinguishes Jaws from its modern-day [blockbuster] counterparts is patience," wrote Gilby. "In milking its suspense from what we can't see (the shark), Spielberg placed the lion's share of responsibility on what we can see--and that, for the most part, is Scheider, who dominates the first half of the film, and spends the second half cooped up on a boat with Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw."

"He was a wonderful guy," Dreyfuss told The Associated Press on Sunday. "He was what I call 'a knockaround actor,' [meaning] 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."

Scheider's professionalism was put to the test when his contract with Universal for a sequel to Jaws forced him to decline the leading role in 1979's The Deer Hunter, which went to Robert De Niro.

Scheider returned to the stage in 1980, but he never stopped playing distinguished cinematic character parts.

"What he didn't play well was action hero," Gilby stated plainly. "In the 1983 high-tech thriller Blue Thunder, Scheider suffered the indignity of competing for close-ups with an armored helicopter."

"I thought he was cool in Blue Thunder," professed IAN CASSELBERRY at BlessYouBoys.com, who called Scheider "one of the memorable movie stars of my youth."

The actor's other genre credits include Marathon Man (1976); 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), Naked Lunch (1991), Dracula II: Ascension (2003), The Punisher (2004) and Dracula III: Legacy (2005). But it is through the shark movie that Scheider has been immortalized, a fact that would have shocked him 30 years ago.

"I thought we were making a very good action film, and I enjoyed the scenes with [Dreyfuss and Shaw]," he said in 2005, but "I don't think anybody realized that it would make that much of an impact, simply because they didn't realize how everyone is so afraid of anything that's in the water, whether it's in the bathtub or a toilet or a lake, or whatever. They just don't like what happens down in the water."

That same year, Scheider's most famous line in Jaws, "You're gonna need a bigger boat," was voted No. 35 on the American Film Institute's list of best quotes from U.S. movies.

Dreyfuss said that Scheider "was a pretty civilized human being--you can't ask for much more than that."

The actor is survived by his wife, Brenda Seimer; three children, Christian Verrier Scheider, Molly Mae Scheider and Maximillia Connelly Lord; his brother, Glenn Scheider; two grandchildren; and millions of fans who, only now, may be appreciating Roy Scheider fully.

"Sorry to hear about him," posted 316MIO in the Comments at Mania.com. "I totally loved Jaws...made me not go in the water for a long time."

[Thanks to DAVE KEHR at The New York Times, Mania's JARROD SARAFIN, DUANE BYRGE at The Hollywood Reporter, and E!Online's NATALIE FINN.]
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