Richard Dreyfuss on Winning an Oscar: “You’re riskier when you’re on the hunt”

Actor Richard Dreyfuss

“I had no doubt of my eventual success.” – Richard Dreyfuss

Few actors have put together a successful run of movies like Richard Dreyfuss from 1975 to 1977. In those three years Dreyfus starred in Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Goodbye Girl, winning an Oscar for the Neil Simon romantic comedy-drama. In fact, Dreyfuss became the youngest actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (since surpassed by Adrien Brody for The Pianist). In a conversation with The Globe and Mail, Dreyfuss recalls his string of success and explains how winning an Oscar hurt his drive — but not his confidence.

While most actors say they felt validated after winning an Oscar, Dreyfuss admits that he felt like he made worse choices after winning one. He reveals, “It probably made me turn down some things I would probably not have thought of turning down had I not won the award. You’re riskier when you’re on the hunt.”

Of course, even Oscar-winners like Dreyfuss face challenges — and many of them are internal and ego-driven. He explains, “I’d been acting since I was 9. So, sure, I had my years of apprenticing. And while I was never uncertain I would finally succeed, I did have my years of bad acting and losing jobs before I ever became prominent in the public eye. I also had a firm grasp on a great sense of denial. I kept thinking I was the greatest actor since cottage cheese, and then when I looked back at the work I was doing at that time, I thought, ‘Holy moly, why didn’t they just lock me up and throw away the key?'”

Still, thinking he was the “Greatest actor since cottage cheese” (whatever that means!) did have one benefit — it gave Dreyfuss confidence in his abilities. He recalls, “I had no doubt of my eventual success. I knew I was apprenticing, where I would be good and bad. But it never impacted on my feeling of eventual success. That’s what I was confident of. I always had that.”

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