Real name: Richard Dreyfuss
Birthdate: October 29, 1947
Partner: Janelle Lacey
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Dreyfuss was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Norman, an attorney and restaurateur, and Geraldine, a peace activist. Dreyfuss is Jewish and his surname is of Yiddish origin, a variant spelling meaning tripod. His surname is pronounced "DRAY-fuss". For years, though, the public mispronounced it as "DRY-fuss" until he corrected them. He has said that according to family tradition, he is either a direct descendant or at least a relative of Alfred Dreyfus. This is disputed by others. Dreyfuss spent his early childhood in Brooklyn and in Bayside, Queens, until he moved to Los Angeles with his family at the age of nine. In 1965, he graduated from Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California.
Dreyfuss's first film part was a small, uncredited role in The Graduate, and in that film he had one line, "Shall I call the cops? I'll call the cops." He was also briefly seen as a stage hand in Valley of the Dolls (he had a few lines). He made a strong impression in the subsequent Dillinger and landed a role in the 1973 hit American Graffiti, acting with other future stars like Harrison Ford. Dreyfuss played his first lead role in the Canadian film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. He went on to star in box office hits Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, both directed by Steven Spielberg. Dreyfuss was originally supposed to reprise his role as Hooper in Jaws 2 as the character who found Orca. The proposal was denied when Peter Benchley was asked to include this in the screenplay. For his portrayal of a struggling actor in The Goodbye Girl, he won an Oscar (at age 30), becoming the youngest actor to win a Best Actor Award (this record has since been surpassed by Adrien Brody).
In 1994, Dreyfuss participated in the historic "Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah (Holocaust)" at the Vatican in the presence of Pope John Paul II, Rav Elio Toaf, chief rabbi of Rome, and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of Italy. He recited Kaddish as part of a performance of Leonard Bernstein's Third Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Sir Gilbert Levine. The event was broadcast worldwide. In 1995, Dreyfuss was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance as Glenn Holland in Mr. Holland's Opus. Since then he has continued his career in the movies, television and on stage. In April 2004, he appeared in the revival of Sly Fox on Broadway (opposite Eric Stoltz, René Auberjonois, Bronson Pinchot and Elizabeth Berkley).
In November 2004, he was scheduled to appear in The Producers in London, but withdrew from the production a week before the opening night. The media noted that Dreyfuss was still suffering from problems relating to an operation for a herniated disc in January, and that the part of Max Bialystock in the play is a physically demanding one. His assistant for the production stated that Dreyfuss was accumulating physical injuries that required him to wear physical therapy supports during rehearsals. Nathan Lane was brought in to replace Dreyfuss in the London production.