January 6th, 2005
Acting with Sharks Interview with Roy Scheiderby Hattie
Roy Scheider-from bed-ridden boy to awesome actor
Before interviewing Roy I told him that some of the questions were of a very personal nature, and that he was free not to answer those. It was my wish to spotlight him, not put him on the spot… a portrait, not an expose. He answered them all.
Hattie: When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
Roy Scheider: Like all children…a policeman, fireman, cowboy…all of them. A hero who protects people.
H: What happened in your life to turn you to acting?
R: I developed rheumatic fever at 6 and spent my life in bed resting and taking sulphur drugs until I was 16. That put me in a special, ghostly category “sickly kid” and cut out all my childhood dreams. The acting started when I was 18 at Franklin & Marshall College. I appeared in Billy Budd and the audience was knocked over by the quality of my work. The next play was Coriolanus, in which I played a 65-year-old senator, again to raves.
H: What was your parent’s reaction?
R: When I told my dad “I’m an actor” he responded “You’re a damn fool.” I had been a pre-law student and my dad was picturing me as the next Perry Mason.
H: How did you pursue acting after College?
R: Well, first I was in the ROTC, in the Air Force in Korea for 4 years. After that I did Summer Stock, playing Richard III. A write-up in Sam Zolotov’s column in the New York Times captured Joe Papp’s attention and he cast me as the first Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. I spent 15 years doing repertory on and off Broadway before starting my career in Hollywood.
H: With whom did you study?
R: I never studied with anyone. I attended a late night scene class with Harold Clurman at the Stella Adler Studio. You could say he was my mentor.
H: What is your biggest disappointment?
R: That I never returned to Classical Theatre after movies.
H: What was your favorite role in films?
R: ALL THAT JAZZ. It had the biggest hurdles. Bob Fosse had every possible addiction…at least 6 or 7. He had me read the play with him every night for 2 weeks in a row before he cast me.
H: Did you have any addictions?
R: I was a smoker for 20 years, stopped and started again several times before stopping for good.
H: Do you have any concerns about aging?
R: Not really. It beats dying.
H: What’s the best thing about being a celebrity?
R:It gets you good tables at restaurants.
H: How do you feel when people stop you on the street?
R: It’s flattering…but not in traffic!
H: What’s your greatest satisfaction…professional? personal?
R: Professionally, it’s the instant communication with people, the ?ɬ�human moment.’ It opens the door to humanity, to wholeness. Personally, my relationship to my present wife Brenda, and my 2 children, Christian, 14 and Molly, 9. Also my daughter Maximillia from my first marriage and the 2 grandchildren.
H: Are you involved in any political or environmental causes?
R: Absolutely. I’m active in the Group For South Fork Environment and Three Mile Island. I was one of the people who laid down on Highway 27 to protest America’s invasion of Iraq.
H: What are your plans for the future?
R: I plan to spend the next 4-5 years in Florence, Italy with my family and associates developing a 212 acre property that was once a munitions factory. It’s large enough to house a sound stage, international projects for filmmakers, directors, choreographers, musicians, artists…and a Spa. The project is Renaissance Park and Mario Cuomo is our spokesperson.
H: And how do you feel about sharks?
R: I’m sympathetic to them. They chew up a leg or arm, but never eat us-They spit us out!