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Roy Scheider, Star of Jaws and Jazz

Actor Roy Scheider, star of the movies Jaws and All That Jazz, has died at age 75.

The New York Post quotes his wife, Brenda, as saying Scheider died “of a staph infection, brought on by complications of the multiple myeloma with which he was diagnosed in 2004.”

As Sheriff Brody in Jaws (1976), Scheider carried the action for two acts while the shark lurked beneath the surface. He also fought off the scene-stealing performances of Robert Shaw (as the shark hunter, Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (as the eager oceanographer, Hooper) and, of course, of the shark. Spotting the monster, he delivered the film’s signature line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Scheider was never a superstar but always reliable. (Dreyfuss calls him a “knockaround actor” in The San Francisco Chronicle’s obituary. The Guardian, meanwhile, says “There was something reptilian in Scheider that clashed intriguingly with his willingness to play weak.”) He was lean, sardonic, tough and yet empathetic. Scheider played cops and detectives in movies like The Seven-Ups (1973), Blue Thunder (1983), and 52 Pick-Up (1986). He was Dustin Hoffman‘s secret-agent brother in Marathon Man (1976).

And he had supporting roles in two groundbreaking Manhattan dramas of 1971: Klute (supporting Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda) and The French Connection (as Gene Hackman‘s slightly more humane partner).

His terrific run in the 1970s was capped by All That Jazz, with Scheider putting down the gun and stepping into dance boots as the alter-ego of director Bob Fosse. Scheider is dynamic and utterly believable in Fosse’s re-telling of his own life history of dance, film, ego, pep pills and womanizing. (As an aside, All That Jazz inspired one of Who2’s most popular loops, The Fosse Connection.)

How many actors could play tough guys and choreographers? Jimmy Cagney comes to mind, and that’s good company. It’s hard to imagine Hackman in tights, in any case.

Scheider was nominated twice for Academy Awards: As supporting actor for The French Connection (losing to Ben Johnson of The Last Picture Show) and as leading actor for All That Jazz (losing, quite unfairly, to the better-known Hoffman in the weepy Kramer vs. Kramer).

So long, Mr. Scheider. That was some good work.

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