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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK


Close encounter with Richard Dreyfuss

American actor Richard Dreyfuss made his name in blockbusters such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, American Graffiti and Jaws.

He went on to win an in Oscar for his 1977 film The Goodbye Girl - but this success was followed by a downward spiral into a 10-year drug binge.

Now Richard Dreyfuss talks candidly to BBC World's Tim Sebastian about how he pulled himself out of addiction to return to the limelight.

"Stardom is a friendship that occurs between an audience and a performer" said Richard Dreyfuss, who is currently cementing a 30 year friendship with his return to the London stage.

The actor is appearing in Neil Simon's play The Prisoner of 2nd Avenue alongside Marsha Mason, whom he starred with in The Goodbye Girl.

Richard Dreyfuss on the Oscars: "It's a great, great evening but that's all it is"
Dreyfuss was just 29 when he won an Oscar, making him at the time the youngest actor ever to win such an award.

But he remains unmoved by his Oscar win. "It's a great, great evening but that's all it is", says the actor, "It goes and it goes pretty quickly and it's not going to make my life".

Born in 1947, in Brooklyn New York, Richard Stephen Dreyfuss moved to Los Angeles when he was nine, where he began acting at the Beverly Hills Jewish centre.

"I always wanted to be an actor" says Dreyfuss, "I wanted to be a movie star and I just knew it'd happen".

After cutting his teeth in stand-up comedy and small TV and theatre roles, Dreyfuss landed his first film role in The Graduate.

But it was his role in the 1973 hit, American Graffiti that launched Richard into the big time, and he went on to star in the box office sensation Jaws.

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But Dreyfuss admits that he originally turned down the part in Steven Spielberg's shark adventure film.

"I thought it'd be an incredibly difficult shoot and I'm very lazy. I didn't now it'd be the most popular film since Birth of a Nation, so I turned it down, glibly and stupidly," he says.

But Dreyfuss soon changed his mind and called Steven Spielberg and "begged him for the part".

After his blockbuster run, Dreyfuss went through a slow period, when none of his movies did particularly well at the box office.

This led to a growing drug dependency, which Dreyfuss admits, "destroyed" him.

Richard Dreyfuss: Drugs "brought me to my knees"
"It brought me to my knees," says Dreyfuss, "It made all of the things I thought I could prevail over nothing in comparison."

After a serious road accident the actor "sobered up" for a comeback in the 1986 comedy film Down And Out In Beverly Hills.

More recently Dreyfuss has appeared in films such as Krippendorf's Tribe and Mr Holland's Opus, for which he was nominated for a second Academy Award.

But the actor admits that he still hasn't achieved his ultimate goal.

"Ever since I was a little boy I've always asked for the same thing - inner serenity," says Dreyfuss.

"I'm a long way from obtaining that but I don't know many people who have."

The full HARDtalk interview is broadcast at the following times on Thursday 20 May.

BBC World (GMT)

0730, 0930, 1530, 1930

News 24 (BST)

1930, 0230

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