It’s common practice for popular actors to consider themselves influencers of our popular-culture. We often welcome them to be arbiters of our zeitgeist. Many actors believe themselves to be credit-worthy shapers and reshapers of societal norms. Some performers may be well educated, even brilliant in their art, but those skills are not necessarily beacons of moral clarity or intellectual depth.

A recent unscripted appearance by Academy Award winning actor Richard Dreyfuss encourages us to wonder why we give thespians more credence than an actor’s-credit?

As tourists pack-up their coolers to hit the beaches of Boston, The Cabot Cinema, a vintage North Shore movie-house kicked off the summer season with a celebration of  “Jaws”.  It was the expectation of the Cabot’s Executive Director, J. Casey Soward, to dish with Academy Award winner, Richard Dreyfuss, about the film’s production at a special event that welcomed locals to catch a summa-vibe.

The nostalgic film, released in 1975, is a sand-castle classic-thriller complete with a John Williams score. Jaws has a splash of Alfred Hitchcock kinda tension captured in almost every scene. The 124 minute Spielberg-ized fantasy and it’s crew have achieved cult-status and rightly so, like a sandy shoreline, the film is a beloved seasonal fantasy.

In Jaws, Richard Dreyfuss is cast as a heavyweight marine biologist. The pivotal role was written as an ethical and intellectual foil to characters vested in maintaining appearances within an idyllic summer colony of dream-weavers.

Beyond the blockbuster film, Dreyfuss’ storied career includes performances in iconic TV shows, Peyton Place, Bewitched and Gunsmoke. His acting credentials extend to noteworthy performances as a romantic neurotic in The Goodbye Girl, (1977), a hysterically frustrated psychiatrist in “What About Bob, ( 1991) and a reluctantly benevolent music teacher in Mr. Holland’s Opus ( 1995). In 2019, he also played the lead in Astronaut. And, his list of credits continues to soar to the stage.

Dreyfuss played all of his parts masterfully, but he was only pretending to personify the accomplished qualities of those he portrayed. The actor could have filled Cabot’s air with cotton-candy colored stories of all sorts of Hollywood legend.  Instead, the 76 year old went off on an unscripted diatribe about working with Barbara Streisand and his opinion of the trans community.

The true talent of Richard Dreyfuss and his cohort is their exceptional ability to play a character. The most talented actors have the ability to pretend to be many characters. However, an actor, even an undeniably talented one like Richard Dreyfuss, is only a dream-weaver. They create fantasies. Most actors are not sufficiently well proven to be policy makers.

Richard Dreyfuss has a consummate ability to read a script. Historically he brings nuance to the words someone has written for him to say. He stands in the Parthenon of his craft, but it’s our cultural obligation to see him and his peers as actors rather than beacons of moral clarity or persons of deep intellectual capacity.

Some attending the special Jaws event were hurt by the opinions of Dreyfuss and left the Cinema. Others heard the actor’s remarks as mere reminiscences of his experiences with a famously talented women and extended rights to his free speech.

To his credit J. Casey Soward, as moderator of the event, issued a public apology for the pain Dreyfuss’ comments caused some guests and community members. He reiterated the actor’s remarks are not the policy of the Cabot Cinema.

Flipping the script, events are planned at the Cabot to confirm the Cinema’s long-term support of the LGBTQI community.

J. Casey Soward, Executive Director of the Cabot Cinema 11/13/23 Peabody Essex Museum

 

In the words of Shakespeare :

” Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

Like a Colossus, and we petty men

Walk under his huge legs and peep about

To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

Men at some time are masters of their fates.  The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars ,

But in our selves, that we are underlings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

.J. Casey Soward Executive Director Cabot

 

 

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