Long before What About Bob?, Dreyfuss got pushed around by another looming personality on the set of Jaws in 1975.
Robert Shaw, the screen legend who starred as Quint opposite Dreyfuss’ Hooper and Roy Scheider’s Chief Brody, apparently had it in for Dreyfuss as soon as he got a whiff of the young actor’s infamous arrogant attitude. In a behind-the-scenes feature for the classic aquatic horror flick, Scheider, director Steven Spielberg, and Dreyfuss all confirm the rivalry.
Scheider says Shaw described the young Dreyfuss as “a young punk with no stage experience” who “needed a slapping down.” From Dreyfuss’ perspective, he felt “competitive” with Shaw, although he confessed that he often abandoned the competition due to Shaw’s stature and gravitas. “In private, [Shaw] was the kindest, gentlest, funniest guy you ever met,” Dreyfuss said. “Then we’d walk to the set, and on the way to the set he was possessed by some evil troll who would then make me his victim.”
To Spielberg, it was all part of the process. “Robert would basically humiliate Richard into taking a chance,” the director said. “It got ugly, but it was also Quint and Hooper living out that relationship as Shaw and Dreyfuss.”
Spielberg’s sentiments strangely echo those of What About Bob? director Oz some 20 years later, and it all begs the question: Is Richard Dreyfuss an amazing actor, or does he have to be psychologically manipulated into putting out a great performance?