Richard Dreyfuss has relied on intelligence, energy and incredible talent to gain and keep his place among the leading actors of the American cinema. Three of his films, in fact, were recently included in the American Film Institute's list of the greatest 100 films. One of his notable roles was as the teacher in Mr. Holland's Opus, for which he received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor. At age 29, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in The Goodbye Girl.
One of the many dimensions Dreyfuss has displayed throughout the years of his success has been his political and social activism. He has campaigned for candidates and causes, given testimony advocating for national and community service before congressional and other governmental committees, and works with groups promoting solutions to the Arab/Israeli conflict. His Imagining the Future Fund has focused on public affairs broadcast media in the Middle East, having just returned from a conference he helped organize bringing together Western and Arab journalists at the Salzburg Seminar. He is co-founder of L.A. Works, a non-profit, public action and volunteer center in Los Angeles. He sits on the board of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which built the first national museum dedicated to our Constitution. He has also spoken in venues across the country about the need for civic engagement. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles ACLU Foundation and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Dreyfuss has made his personal involvement a priority.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dreyfuss and his parents moved to Los Angeles when he was eight years old. He soon realized he wanted to spend his life as an actor, beginning his acting career at age nine at the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. After his formal schooling, he spent two years as a conscientious objector, doing alternative service as a clerk at Los Angeles County General Hospital.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Dreyfuss commuted between both coasts doing Broadway, off-Broadway, repertory and improvisational comedy, as well as some guest appearances on television.
Dreyfuss made his motion picture debut in 1967 with a bit part in Valley of the Dolls, followed by one line in The Graduate. Then several films later, in 1973, his sensitive portrayal of an ambivalent college-bound teen in the cult classic American Graffiti garnered him both praise and attention. This was the beginning of a string of stellar performances in such films as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Goodbye Girl.
The 80s saw a string of acclaimed movies including Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Tin Men and Stakeout, followed by at least a dozen others. The 90s have seen a variety of films ranging from Mr. Holland's Opus and Sidney Lumet's Night Falls on Manhattan (with Andy Garcia), to the comedy hit What About Bob? (with Bill Murray), as well as a cameo role in The American President, for his childhood friend Rob Reiner. He also directed Our Love is Here to Stay, a thirty-minute film starring Anne Archer, Carrie Fisher, and William Peterson for Showtime's Directed By series.
Dreyfuss, like many other actors, began his career on stage, but few have returned to their theatrical roots as steadfastly as he with starring roles in “The Hands of Its Enemy,” “The Normal Heart”, the Broadway production of “Death and the Maiden” with Glenn Close and Gene Hackman, and “Three Hotels” with Christine Lahti at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, to name a few. He also directed “Hamlet” for The Birmingham Theatre Company at the Old Rep in England, marking his bow as a director. He is a charter member of the Los Angeles Theatre Works, a radio ensemble company. He recently starred as Mark Anthony in the BBC Radio/ KCRW production of Julius Caesar, as Benedict Arnold in “ An American General”, and in George Bernard Shaw's “Devil's Disciple” in Washington, DC. Dreyfuss could recently be seen in the play “The Exonerated” off Broadway.
In 1998, Dreyfuss starred in Lansky for HBO, written by David Mamet and directed by John McNaughton. He completed a successful run of the Neil Simon play “Prisoner of Second Avenue” in London's Haymarket Theatre with Marsha Mason. He starred in The Crew with Burt Reynolds and Jennifer Tilly, and then shot The Old Man Who Read Love Stories directed by Rolf de Heer in French Guyana. He was presented with the 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hollywood Film Festival. He was the star of CBS’ show The Education of Max Bickford, and starred in the Showtime movie The Day Reagan Was Shot, playing General Alexander Haig. Dreyfuss starred with Judy Davis in the Showtime movie Coast to Coast. Most recently, he starred in Cop Shop for PBS and was co-producer, co-writer and host for the History Channel’s Duel: Hamilton vs. Burr, which examined the tumultuous feud between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
Dreyfuss was the executive producer of the award-winning ABC special honoring the bicentennial of the constitution, Funny, You Don’t Look 200: A Constitutional Vaudeville. Most recently, Dreyfuss starred in “All My Sons,” the play written by Arthur Miller and directed by Doug Hughes, at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, opposite Joanne Woodward. He recently finished a successful run of a new production of “Sly Fox” by Larry Gelbart on Broadway.