Richard Dreyfuss

On Board The Poseidon

Richard Dreyfuss

Los Angeles – Richard Dreyfuss has the distinction of being first out of the gate this summer as a suicidal gay man on the big screen. You see, it is not just he who gets to play gay and depressed this boffo box office season. Dreyfuss’s competition is "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Steve Carell, in the upcoming "Little Miss Sunshine."

"I didn’t know that," Dreyfuss, who makes his big screen comeback in "Poseidon," says, when I point that out to him. "When it rains it pours."

Dreyfuss, you may have noticed, has been absent from the big screen for more than a decade – if you don’t include the horrible Krippendorf’s Tribe (in 1998) – where he was last seen in and nominated for Best Actor for "Mr. Holland’s Opus."

Why the ten year hiatus from the big screen? Well, theater has been good to Dreyfuss for the past decade and that is where he feels most at home. He received outstanding reviews for his turn in "Sly Fox" on Broadway, not too long ago. Although, he did back out of the West End production of "The Producers," as Max Bialystock, because of back problems related to a recent surgery.

Dreyfuss, almost sixty, is not a stranger to the summer blockbuster, which everyone associated with "Poseidon" hopes it will be. Rather, Dreyfuss can lay claim to being in the first ever bonafide summer blockbuster, which took place in the ocean – more than thirty years ago – "Jaws."

Before "Jaws," there was no such thing as a ‘summer movie.’

"And no one thought ‘Jaws’ would ever make a dime," laughs Dreyfuss, now. "It was wrought with complications from the get-go. The mechanical shark wouldn’t work half the time, the movie went over budget, if I remember correctly, and it was just a mess. We all thought it was going to tank. But thanks to John Williams’ score and Spielberg’s direction and the marvels of editing it has become a classic."

Poseidon Movie Poster

Three years before "Jaws" was released, the original "Poseidon," – yes, "The Poseidon Adventure" – was released. "The Poseidon Adventure" earned Shelly Winters an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. However, it is doubtful that anyone from this remake, a $180 million extravaganza, will earn any acting awards, not because the acting is sub par, (rather the script is lacking depth).

No need to worry about Dreyfuss and Oscar. Though he lost his second time around, for "Mr. Holland’s Opus," he won the Oscar for "The Goodbye Girl," in 1978. At the time, and until Adrien Brody won Best Actor for "The Pianist," Dreyfuss was the youngest to ever win the Best Actor Oscar.

Dreyfuss has had his ups and downs in Hollywood. In the early eighties he crashed his car and was arrested when police found him in possession of cocaine. He admitted, publicly, that he had a drug problem, went into rehab, took a few years off from movies and bounced back in a triumphant return in 1986 with the first R-rated Touchstone Pictures film, (Disney’s adult film division), "Down And Out In Beverly Hills."

In 2004, six years after his last big screen starring role, Dreyfuss announced he was retiring from film.

So why the comeback? And why "Poseidon?"

"I thought it was time," says Dreyfuss with a serious face. "You can only stay away so long. And the offer came to me. I liked the role. The movie seemed not only fun to make but also a physical challenge. And though the character I play in ‘Poseidon" initially is ready to take his own life, by jumping off the ship, he decides at the last minute, maybe because of fright, to fight for his life. And that is what the whole movie is about, really; fighting to stay alive in adverse, tragic circumstances."

We all know Shelly Winters died in "The Poseidon Adventure;" giving up her life to save others. To find out if Dreyfuss’s character, Richard Nelson, climbs out of the bottom of the sinking ship…you’ll just have to see the film.

Low on plot line, high on adrenaline, director Wolfgang Petersen knows how to keep a water-based movie from sinking. "Poseidon" is his third time on the ocean – following "The Perfect Storm" and "Das Boot."

Dreyfuss, who just married for the third time this past March, does not have any other film projects in the works. "But if the right one comes along, I will take a serious look at it," he says with a grin. "I will never say never again."