In the 1940s, Roy Scheider tried his hand at amateur boxing, initially pursuing the sport in order to lose a few pounds. After a few years, he quit boxing to join the United States Air Force, eventually becoming a reservist captain of the Air Force Reserve Command.
However, in the mid-1960s, Scheider decided to enter the acting world, landing his first role in The Curse of the Living Corpse. After a few minor roles on screen and stage, Scheider starred in several New Hollywood-era productions, such as Klute and The French Connection, which earned him wider recognition in the industry.
Despite his past exploits, Scheider is perhaps best known for his role in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jaws, which held the title of the highest-grossing film ever made for two years until Star Wars succeeded it. He played Martin Brody, a police chief who hunts a killer shark wreaking havoc on Amity Island. Alongside Robert Shaw’s professional shark hunter, Quint, and Richard Dreyfuss’ marine biologist, Matt, the trio embark on a treacherous journey to save the beach resort from harm.
Jaws made a groundbreaking impact on Hollywood and popular culture, becoming the archetypal summer blockbuster. Moreover, the film is responsible for the negative reputation still held by sharks, with the number of Americans visiting the beach significantly decreasing upon the film’s release.
The sheer success of Jaws led to several sequels made by other directors, despite Spielberg declaring to an audience in 1975, “Making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick”. None of the Jaws sequels were well-received; in fact, Jaws: The Revenge, released in 1987, was severely panned by critics.
Scheider starred in Jaws 2 alongside Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton and Jeffrey Kramer, all of whom starred in the original Jaws. In an interview on The Graham Norton Show, the actor revealed that these sequels embarrassed him. He explained that when he was invited back to star in the sequel, “everyone else ran. No one wanted to do Jaws 2. But I was contracted to Universal, so I did the second film.”
He also stated that he didn’t do the subsequent movies after Jaws 2 because “they got worse and worse, and more embarrassing and more embarrassing”. When Norton asked Scheider if he tried to get out of Jaws 2, he joked: “I tried to plead insanity and make myself as unavailable as possible, but finally, because I had a contract I did it.”
Jaws 2 was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, who took over from John D. Hancock, with neither proving particularly suited for the role. The film became the highest-grossing sequel ever at the time of release, although it only grossed half as much as Jaws. However, critical reviews were less favourable, with writers like Roger Ebert calling it “pure trash”.