Jaws actor Richard Dreyfuss recently caught a performance of Broadway’s The Shark Is Broken, the comedy-drama about the making of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster. Despite the smile on his face in meet-the-cast photos, he wasn’t very happy.
In an exclusive Vanity Fair interview, Dreyfuss criticizes the play – written by and co-starring Ian Shaw, dead-ringer son of the late Jaws actor Robert Shaw – for what he says are inaccuracies and for making him look like “a big jerk.”
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“I went to see it, to see if it really was gonna hurt,” Dreyfuss tells VF‘s Chris Murphy. “And it did.”
The comedy, based in part on Robert Shaw’s diary, depicts the long-rumored feud between Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw during the film’s hurry-up-and-wait Cape Cod shooting as the the cast – Dreyfuss, Shaw and Roy Scheider – was all but sequestered on the floating Orca set. Dreyfuss, played by Alex Brightman, is depicted as neurotic and insecure, while Shaw’s non-stop drinking continually slows down an already tortuous shoot.
Denying a feud, Dreyfuss tells VF, “When we were surrounded by lots of other people, Robert would take digs at me, and I would take a dig at him. But that was only to make the hours go better, faster. We didn’t take any of that seriously.”
Accounts of a troubled set date back to the 1970s, when Jaws co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb published The Jaws Log addressing what he presented as personality clashes among the cast. An expanded edition came along in 2005 for the film’s 30th anniversary.
“Thirty years after the film is over,” Dreyfuss says, “I start to hear this thing about a feud. I didn’t pay too much attention.”
But the ongoing feud rumors apparently began to rankle: Dreyfuss has some harsh words for both Gottlieb and Spielberg for, as Vanity Fair says, “what he perceives as their role in spreading the story about his relationship with Shaw.”
“I don’t think they just gave it any thought that it would hurt me, and it did,” he says. “I have to say that Carl and Steven knew better, knew that there was no feud. There was an ongoing kind of humor between us. If you only saw us on the set, then you might think that there was something — a feud that was going on — but it was never real. Never. And I hold that against Carl and Steven.”
The play, which began previews for a limited engagement at the Golden Theatre on July 25 before opening August 10, closes Nov. 19. And perhaps none too soon for Dreyfuss.
“It was pretty awful,” he says about seeing the play earlier this month. “Ian [Shaw] – who has more than any right to write whatever he wants – never called me and said, ‘Give me some background.’ Or, ‘Give me your take on this and this.’ And they just decided to make my character a big jerk.”
“The problem is that they made my character the fool,” Dreyfuss continues. “They didn’t do that to Roy, and they didn’t do that to Robert. And that hurt because it wasn’t true.”
Deadline has reached out to a show spokesman for comment, and will update this post as needed.
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