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'Jaws' Actor Roy Scheider

by Dave Kehr

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Actor Roy Scheider in 'Jaws'

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas -- Roy Scheider, a stage actor with a background in the classics who became one of the leading figures in the American film renaissance of the 70s, died Sunday, February 10 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital in Little Rock, hospital spokesman David Robinson said. He was 75.

The hospital did not release his cause of death, but he had been diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, in 2004 and subsequently underwent a bone marrow transplant. Scheider had suffered from multiple myeloma for several years, and died of complications from a staph infection, his wife, Brenda Seimer, said.

Scheider's rangy figure, gaunt face and emotional openness made him particularly appealing in everyman roles, most famously as the agonized police chief of "Jaws," Steven Spielberg's 1975 breakthrough hit, about a New England resort town haunted by the knowledge that a killer shark is preying on the local beaches.

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Roy Scheider

Scheider conveyed an accelerated metabolism in 1971 movies like "Klute," his first major film role, in which he played a threatening pimp to Jane Fonda's New York call girl and in William Friedkin's "French Connection," as the slightly more restrained partner to Gene Hackman's marauding police detective. That role earned Scheider the first of two Oscar nominations.

Scheider played Det. Eddie 'Buddy' Russo, the abrasive, street-smart partner of Popeye Doyle. The two New York narcotics cops were on the trail of an international drug gang that has been shipping heroin from Marseille, France, to New York. In later years, Scheider delighted in telling the story of how he got the part by sheer luck while auditioning for a stage role in New York.

The stage part called for an actor who was at least 6 feet tall. "Every time I started reading, the director sitting out there in the dark in the theater would interrupt and ask me how tall I was," Scheider recalled the auditioning process in a 2001 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman in 'The French Connection'

"I told him I was 5-foot-10, but he asked me to stand back-to-back with another actor," Scheider said. "I lost it, and flung the script into the darkness. It so happened the casting director for 'The French Connection' was sitting in on the auditions and watching. He told me later he knew he had found Popeye's partner."

Born on November 10, 1932 in Orange, New Jersey, Scheider earned his distinctive broken nose in the New Jersey Diamond Gloves Competition. He studied at Rutgers and at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he graduated as a history major with the intention of going to law school.

Scheider served three years in the United States Air Force, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. When he was discharged, he returned to Franklin and Marshall to star in a production of "Richard III." His professional debut was as Mercutio in a 1961 New York Shakespeare Festival production of "Romeo and Juliet." He won an Obie for the play, "Stephen D."

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Roy Scheider with two of the women in his life. In the left photo, Scheider and his wife,

Brenda. In the right photo, Scheider and his 12-year-old daughter, Molly in 2007.

After appearing on soap "The Edge of Night," he launched his film career with 1964's "The Curse of the Living Corpse," a low-budget horror film by the prolific schlockmeister Del Tenney. "He had to bend his knees to die into a moat full of quicksand up in Connecticut," recalled Seimer, a documentary filmmaker. "He loved to demonstrate that."

His material started to improve with "Star!," "Paper Lion," "Stiletto" and "Puzzle of a Downfall Child," although he continued to several guest appearances on soaps such as "Love of Life" and "Secret Storm."

In 1977, Scheider worked with Friedkin again in "Sorcerer," a big-budget remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1953 French thriller, "The Wages of Fear," about transporting a dangerous load of nitroglycerine in South America.

Offered a leading role in 1979's "The Deer Hunter," Scheider had to turn it down in order to fulfill his contract with Universal for a sequel to "Jaws." Ultimately, the part went to Robert De Niro. "Jaws 2" failed to recapture the appeal of the first film, but Scheider bounced back with his next film, 1979's "All That Jazz."

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Roy Scheider in 'All That Jazz'

Scheider played the principal role of Joe Gideon in Bob Fosse's autobiographical phantasmagoria. Equipped with Fosse's Mephistophelean beard and manic drive, Scheider's character gobbled amphetamines in an attempt to stage a new Broadway show while completing the editing of a film.

Based on Fosse's real life antics, both projects were done while pursuing a parade of alluring young women

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'Jaws' Actor Roy Scheider

by Jill Zeman, Associated Press Writer

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Actor Roy Scheider

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas -- Roy Scheider, the actor best known for his role as a police chief in the blockbuster movie, "Jaws," died Sunday, February 10 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital in Little Rock, hospital spokesman David Robinson said. At first, the hospital did not release his cause of death. He was 75.

However, hospital spokeswoman Leslie Taylor later said Scheider had been treated for multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects blood cells, at the hospital's Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy for the past two years. Taylor released a statement stating, "died of complications from the disease."

Scheider as Chief Martin Brody and Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper starred in the 1975 movie, "Jaws," which was widely hailed as the film that launched the era of the Hollywood blockbuster. It was the first film to earn $100 million at the box office. "He was a wonderful guy. He was what I call 'a knockaround actor,'" Dreyfuss said.

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Actors Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider with director Steven

Spielberg on the set of the 1975 film, 'Jaws'

In a tribute to his late co-star, Dreyfuss continued, "A 'knockaround actor' to me is a compliment that means a professional that lives the life of a professional actor and doesn't' yell and scream at the fates and does his job and does it as well as he can."

In 2005, one of Scheider's most famous lines in the movie

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