Roy Scheider, the star of “Jaws” and several other key movies of the 1970s — but mostly the star of “Jaws” — died yesterday after contracting a staph infection during treatment for mutiple myeloma. He was 75.
For a guy who was largely perceived as a journeyman actor, he worked with a hell of a lot of great filmmakers: Pakula, Fosse, Friedkin (twice), Schrader, Demme, Coppola and of course David Cronenberg, who gave him the strangest and most memorable role of his later years in “Naked Lunch”, as the jovial Dr. Benway. (“BENWAAAAAY!”)
It’s “Jaws” that makes him immortal, though; he’s the heart and soul of that movie, the nervous, sheepish fish-out-of-water cop who gradually evolves into a kickass action hero, keeping the audience with him every step of the way. Because of Spielberg, “Jaws” is a perfect thrill machine. Because of Scheider, it’s a marvelous human story, too.
There’s a lovely tribute to him over at the official site of the perpetually imminent “Jaws” documentary The Shark Is Still Working”. You should spend some time there if you can.