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Ringside Report Puts the Spotlight on Roy Scheider


By Geoffrey Huchel

We all know Roy Scheider (born November 10, 1932) as the star of the megahit JAWS (1975), but it’s what he did before his acting career that may not be as well known to many. Scheider spent his early years as an athlete, where he participated in organized baseball and boxing competitions. He competed in the Diamond Gloves Boxing Tournament in New Jersey. Between 1946 and 1949 Scheider boxed as an amateur in New Jersey. In his second bout, at the 1946 Diamond Gloves Tournament, he suffered a broken nose and lost by the technical knockout in two rounds to Myron Greensberg. He went on, however, to post an 8-, 6 KO’s record, reversing the defeat to Greensberg in the process. Scheider also served three years in the United States Air Force as a First Lieutenant in Air Operations from 1955 to 1958. He then became a Reservist Captain in the Air Force Reserve Command until 1964.

Scheider started his acting career in the theatre, appearing with the New York Shakespeare Festival. On television, Scheider won roles on two CBS soap operas, LOVE OF LIFE (1951) and THE SECRET STORM (1954). He also played character roles on episodes on N.Y.P.D (1967) and CORONET BLUE (1967). He continued winning roles on television throughout the 1960s including EDGE OF NIGHT (1956) and WHERE THE HEART IS (1969). Scheider’s first film role was in the 1964 horror film THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE (1964). He also appeared in two highly popular films, KLUTE (1971), which also starred Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland and THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) in which he played a fictionalized version of New York City detective Sonny Grosso.

The role gained him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His first starring role came in 1973 in THE SEVEN-UPS (1973), a follow-up to THE FRENCH CONNECTION, in which his character is again based on Grosso. His next role was as Chief Martin Brody in the Hollywood blockbuster JAWS. The movie also starred Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. After the success of JAWS, Scheider continued winning more film roles such as the crime thriller MARATHON MAN (1976), featuring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier and the drama SORCERER (1977). Scheider returned to his role of Chief Martin Brody for JAWS 2 (1978). Lorraine Gary also reprised her role as Brody’s wife Ellen. Scheider finished up the 1970s with roles in LAST EMBRACE (1979) and the Oscar winning ALL THAT JAZZ (1979), which also starred Jessica Lange.

Throughout the 1980s Scheider turned in performances in TV movies such as Disney’s TIGER TOWN (1983) and feature films including the crime drama STILL OF THE NIGHT (1982), starring alongside Meryl Streep and Jessica Tandy, BLUE THUNDER (1983), the thriller 52 PICK-UP (1986) with Ann-Margret.

One of Scheider’s next big projects was the Golden Globe nominated drama THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990). The film starred Hollywood icons Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. A few years later he appeared in the action drama ROMEO IS BLEEDING (1993), starring Gary Oldman and Juliette Lewis. In 1993, Scheider returned to TV to work on the series SEAQUEST 2032 (1993-1996).

The series was produced by Steven Spielberg, who Scheider previously worked with on the summer blockbuster JAWS. He portrayed Captain Nathan Bridger, who was enlisted to help keep the peace and explore the last frontier on Earth. Scheider decided to leave the series, but did make occasional appearances throughout its run.

Scheider returned to film projects in the drama THE RAINMAKER (1997), starring Matt Damon, Danny DeVito and Claire Danes. Throughout the late 1990s and well into the 2000s he appeared in more than two dozen film and TV projects. In 2004 he portrayed Frank Castle, SR. in the action film THE PUNISHER (2004), based on the Marvel Comics character. The film also starred Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Rebecca Romijn and Samantha Mathis. In 2006 he narrated and served as associate producer of the JAWS documentary THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING. In the last few years before his death he made appearances in the feature films THE POET (2007), and IF I DIDN’T CARE (2007), and had a guest starring role on LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT.

Roy Scheider died on February 10, 2008, from multiple myeloma. After his death, a biography entitled Roy Scheider: A Life was released as a tribute, compiling reviews, essays, and narration on his life and career.

Here’s a fun fact: Scheider’s line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” was actually ad-libbed and was voted 35th on the American Film Institutes list of Best Movie Quotes.

Scheider was nominated for two Oscars:

Best Actor in a Supporting Role for THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Best Actor in a Leading Role for ALL THAT JAZZ

Scheider was nominated for a Golden Globe:
Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Comedy for ALL THAT JAZZ

Essential Scheider:

JAWS (1975)

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