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Dax Phelan
Director , Producer , Screenwriter
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"William Friedkin on Roy Scheider"

The director shares his memories of working with the

late actor on ''The French Connection'' and ''Sorcerer'' more than 30 years ago. The French Connection Sorcerer

On , the casting director was Bob Weiner, who knew every actor around. One day he brought me Roy Scheider, who was playing a cigar-smoking nun in an off-Broadway production of a Jean Genet play — I don't think had come out yet. Bob Weiner brought him into my office and within five minutes I knew he was the guy. Roy said, ''Don't you want me to read?'' And I said, ''No, you're the guy. I can't imagine there's anyone more right than you.'' That's very rare, by the way.

With a couple of years later, I had tried to cast someone else: Steve McQueen. Steve wanted me to change the scrīpt and write in a role for Ali MacGraw, who he was going with at the time, and he didn't want to shoot in South America, he wanted to find some locations here and do it. I was very arrogant at the time, and I didn't realize then what I realize now: that a close-up of Steve McQueen's face is more powerful than the biggest landscape you could put on screen. So I told Steve to go f--- himself, and then I sent the scrīpt to Roy. It wasn't that I didn't think of Roy right away, but Steve McQueen was my idol, and I wanted to work with him. But that didn't work, so Roy got the scrīpt and he liked it, and we did it.

Roy was not easy to work with on . Now, that's no criterion of anything — do you want somebody who's easy to work with, or do you want somebody who's gonna throw it on the line for a performance? Roy was a creature of mood. He would often go into these dark moods, and it was tough to get him out. He wasn't like that on . But after , he did , he'd achieved some prominence. I really don't know how to put this, but he became difficult. , he would've lied down in front of an elevated train for me.

was like pulling teeth with him. He'd go into a sulk and he'd be almost impossible to talk to, and a lot of it related to personal things that are too small to go into. But I'd go over and explain what we were going to do and he'd turn me off. Wasn't even listening. Then we'd go do a take, and I'd have to keep correcting it and correcting it, and that would just sharpen the edge. It was a difficult picture to make, anyway, and people on the crew and in the cast were getting sick, gangrene, and having to go home. The thing was stretching out endlessly, and I think it finally got to Roy.

One of the other things that it might've related to was how he wanted to play Father Karras in [Friedkin's 1973 film] , the role that went to Jason Miller. I actually thought he could do it, and I suggested him to Bill Blatty, who wrote the novel and the screenplay and was a producer. And he said, ''Oh no, Roy's not right for that. If you want to do it, go ahead, but I can't support it.'' So I moved away from Roy, and I think he took that personally for a good many years.

But I don't blame him for anything in our relationship, and my memory of the two performances he gave couldn't be any better. I haven't seen him for 31 years; I never thought of him for anything else and then our lives just drifted apart. But he's underappreciated. He didn't get the kind of attention he should've gotten for — and [1979's]

[for which Scheider got a Best Actor nomination] will stand the test of time. It really is one of the finest performances by an American actor in a movie.

over 11 years ago 0 likes  4 comments  0 shares
Default avatar
JS
I agree with Friedkin, Roy was sadly not recognised as much as he should of been, and perhaps his infamous role in Jaws was partly to blame. I think when someone does a film that goes on to become a cult, it's often hard for people to see beyond that role. I also find that most of the great actors can be difficult to work with, they throw their heart & soul into a role, taking it personal, and it is hard to let reality take back over for them.
over 11 years ago
Jrs 8c 1405439596528
I haven't seen Roy in all his films probably because he did such an outstanding job in "All That Jazz," that it cannot be matched. He was robbed of that Oscar.
over 11 years ago
Photo 34610
Thanks for sharing that, Dax. "Sorcerer" & "French Connection" were definitly two Roy Scheider best movies. I had the chance to see "Sorcerer" on big screen a few years ago during a festival. It was really one of the best cinematic experience of my life.
over 11 years ago
Photo 23166
oh noooo, you and roy drifted apart!? awww thats no good. I hate it when stuff like that happens. >.< and you cant make up now... T_T
over 11 years ago

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