Academy Award-Winning Actor
Presented by the 2009 ONFilm Festival of Independent Film and Old Dominion University's President's Lecture Series
Richard Dreyfuss has relied on intelligence, energy and talent to gain and keep his place among the leading actors of the American cinema. Three of his films, in fact, were 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.
Throughout the years of his career, Dreyfuss has made political and social activism a priority. He has campaigned for candidates and causes, advocated for national and community service before congressional committees, and worked with groups promoting solutions to the Arab/Israeli conflict. His Imagining the Future Fund brought Western and Arab journalists together to focus on broadcast media in the Middle East. Co-founder of L.A. Works, a nonprofit, public action and volunteer center in Los Angeles, he also sits on the board of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which built the first national museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution and serves on the board of directors of the Los Angeles ACLU Foundation.
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. 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. Stellar performances followed in such films as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, Mr. Holland's Opus and Sidney Lumet's Night Falls on Manhattan.
Dreyfuss began his career on stage, but few actors have returned to their theatrical roots as steadfastly as he with starring roles in "The Hands of Its Enemy," "The Normal Heart," the Broadway productions of "Death and the Maiden" with Glenn Close and Gene Hackman, and the 2004 production of "Sly Fox." He has masterfully portrayed such diverse personalities as Benedict Arnold in "An American General" and Gen. Alexander Haig in the Showtime movie, "The Day Reagan Was Shot."
Dreyfuss was co-producer, co-writer and host for the History Channel's "Duel: Hamilton vs. Burr" and 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."
In 2000, Dreyfuss was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hollywood Film Festival, among many other awards.
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