A versatile, classically trained actor who excelled in both lead and supporting roles, Roy Scheider is best known as Chief Martin Brody in Steven Spielberg’s first blockbuster Jaws (1975). With his weathered face, matte dark eyes and broken nose, Scheider made for a rather down-to-earth tough guy, coming across less as an obsessive vigilante and more an average guy trying to shoulder life’s big challenges.
By forgoing the over-the-top bravado, Roy’s performances gained in believability. In keeping with this trait, Roy decided to walk away from a lead role in The Deer Hunter (1978) as he felt the actions of the character a bit too far-fetched. Irate moguls at Universal Pictures reluctantly let him out of his contract-but only on the condition that he agree to appear in Jaws II (1978). The Deer Hunter role went instead to Robert DeNiro.
Roy Richard Scheider was born on November 10, 1932. A native of Orange, NJ, Scheider had aspirations of boxing, but traded in his gloves to pursue acting at Rutgers University and Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. Following three years of service in the Air Force, Roy beefed up his acting training with years of repertory theater experience in the sixties, debuting as Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” at the 1961 New York Shakespeare Festival, and winning an Obie for Distinguished Performance in the off-Broadway “Stephen D” in 1968.
Within a few years, Roy made the transition from stage to screen, generating buzz for his minor role as a pimp in Klute (1971). Later that same year, Roy really started feeling the warmth of the Hollywood spotlight for his supporting role as Detective Buddy “Cloudy” Russo in The French Connection (1971), which got him nominated for an Oscar. After appearing again as a New York City cop in The Seven-Ups (1973), Scheider hit the big time with his lead role in Jaws (1975), which spawned the sequels Jaws II (1978) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987), in which he also appeared. In 1977, he once again teamed up with French Connection director William Friedkin in Sorcerer, a remake of a French thriller. Scheider’s varied career also includes roles in Marathon Man (1976) as Dustin Hoffman’s secret-agent older brother, and All That Jazz (1979) as the fictional personae of real-life director/choreographer Bob Fosse, which earned him another Oscar nomination.
The eighties were not as triumphant a decade for Scheider’s career, and most notably included projects like Still of the Night (1982) with Meryl Streep, the sci-fi sequel 2010 (1984) and John Frankenheimer’s 52 Pick-Up (1986). Scheider went on to appear in films such as David Lynch’s Naked Lunch (1991) as the evil Dr. Benway, The Myth Of Fingerprints (1997) as a self-absorbed father, and RKO 281 (1999) as Hollywood director George Schaefer. He was also known on television for his lead role as Captain Nathan Bridger in “SeaQuest DSV” (1993-1995), Steven Spielberg’s science fiction series. He continued working right up until his death from cancer in 2008.