One of my all time favorite movies is Jaws. To think about the opportunity to meet and photograph a two time Oscar winner is insane. Yet here I was with writer Jim Ryan, on my way to photograph Richard Dryfuss, in a snow storm. Never having been to the Tivoli Theatre, I remember saying to Jim on how awesome it would be if the backstage had one of those classic theater mirrors with all the lights framing it.
This shoot had been confirmed for weeks, we were asked to arrive early with what we assumed meant we would do the interview and photos before the event kicked in, but that wasn’t the case. The event consisted of Meet and Greet packages, a Q&A on stage and then a screening of the movie Jaws. When we arrived we were greeted by Jeff and Steve of J&S Promotions and that’s when things started to go a bit off the rails. They were nice overall but couldn’t give us any solid answers of where or when it was going to happen. With that in mind, I was unable to utilize my time to set up my lights and realized I was just going to have to wing it.
We watched the clock tick away as Dreyfuss conduct his Meet and Greets and then it was time for the Q&A.
Jim and I secured decent seats and I decided to photograph it because, to be honest, these might be the ONLY photos I’m going to get tonight. The Q&A was interesting in not what was discussed but what wasn’t, more on that in a bit.
After the Q&A, we spotted Jeff and Steve and followed them backstage as the screening began. Arriving to the green room lo and behold, the classic theater mirror complete with lights that I had fantasized about. Jim was given a very limited time to conduct the interview and I started suspecting I was not going to get any time to shoot.
I soon realized another person was with us and came to the conclusion this was probably Richard’s wife, I was correct. I introduced myself as Jim continued the interview and asked if it was okay to take a few photos after he was done. She couldn’t have been kinder and said yes. I then took the opportunity to see what was going to be reflected in the mirror and started to get my set ready. After the interview, as I suspected, J&S was trying to put the kibosh on my photo shoot but Richard’s wife interjected and even against Richard’s original wishes, she insisted that he needed to take the photos.
It was on, I suggested Richard lean and almost sit on the table portion by the mirror and he followed my direction perfectly.
After a few shots I could feel the eyes of J&S on the back of my neck. So I decided to start talking, I said I noticed there were no questions regarding Jaws, was it on purpose? Without a pause he said “Oh yeah.” I then decided I was getting the same shot and tried to mix it up a bit and I asked him to maybe look at himself in the mirror.
He started following my direction and then he quickly turned back to me and said, “Let me tell you about the mirror. When I was young, I went up to my mirror.” And as he said this he got right into my face. Then he continued, “And I said, one day you’re going to be a star and then I kissed it.” Smack, inches away from my face, without any hesitated I say, “And that was it?” “That was it,” Richard reply.
Now in retrospect, maybe he was trying to intimidate me but I was all in. I was having a moment with THE Richard Dreyfuss. After that, we continued taking photos, I felt he was now relaxed and perhaps enjoying it might be a bit of a overstatement, but at least not hating it.
I decided to be bold and ask him about an early movie of his career. A movie I had been teasing and trying to get the writer Jim to watch leading up to this night. I said, “I recently watched the movie Inserts.” He seemed surprised I could even find a good copy of it or knew about it. I said I had and that I have been trying to sit down for a while to watch it. I wasn’t sure it was going to be good I admitted but that I did ended up liking it and thought it was such a bold movie for it’s time. He seemed a bit puzzled and I said well it was X-Rated when it was originally released. But considering it takes place during the 1930s about people trying to make the transition from silent films to talkies and that many turn to shoot stag films, it’s understandable and necessary. He asks what do you mean? I say well there’s full frontal nudity in this film both male and female. And he gestures to himself and I go no not you, but it’s there. I say trust me, I just watched the film, but I continue to praise it. He seems genuinely shocked to be even talking but the film from 1975 but he was completely engaged in the conversation. He even cleared up a gag that kept happening in the film with Clark Gable continually arriving at his character’s door. “Well the rumors go that Clark did porn before he became a star,” Richard explained.
Little did I know that at least one of the J&S guys was losing their shit behind me. My writer Jim later told me he had to almost physically hold the guy back, as he kept saying to Jim,”Are you or I going to tell him to stop.” Now, to be fair, I did say I would make it quick and originally it did not seem like Richard wanted or was informed he was going to take photos that night. Which one could make a case that it is on J&S for not informing him. However, Richard is a big boy and if he was done I don’t think there was a chance in hell he wouldn’t let me know. Plus, his wife was there too and neither ever gave me any inclination they were getting antsy or frustrated with me.
But I needed time, I needed Richard to relax and because of it, I got this shot. This shot is exactly the original setup, but here’s the thing, I hadn’t earned his trust.
I may like it in B&W the best but it’s the shot I was waiting for and then I was done.