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Monday, February 11, 2008

Roy Scheider (1932 - 2008)

Roy Scheider died. I feel sad.

Surprised to say, sad.Sunday Self-Portrait
When major movie stars and media personalities perish, I don't generally feel too much one way or another about it. I feel some curiosity, possibly some sympathy for the person's family. But generally, after the short shock of the initial news, it all feels to me like just one more sequence in their public drama.

I liked ... that guy who just died ... I literally just forgot his name - either because I am old, or I am dangerously out of touch with the very industry I work in, or - most likely - the coffee hasn't taken effect yet.

Heath Ledger.

I liked Heath Ledger a lot. His "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) performance was superb. He managed a character of deeply strangled emotion without giving a strangled performance. Paul Newman pulled that off in some of his early roles. It's not easy.

I regret that I won't be able to see Heath Ledger's career. We always wonder, when a promising talent dies, what spectacular heights they might have scaled, had they been allowed to conttinue and to develop. James Dean, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix. But more often than not, promising talents fade away and do not last a lifetime. If a performer stays in the game and takes care of his body & soul, often the best that can be expected is a cycle of hits and misses, missteps and lucky breaks and missed opportunities and minor successes leveraged to great advantage.

We like success and excellence and we like more of it and more of it and more of it. We like to see it played out on our screens. We like to imagine such a thing would be possible in our own lives, and pocketbooks. I do anyway. But I have come to believe that such an expectation is not only childish - or, at least, something born out of childish fears - but that it's also undesireable. Very much the equivalent of wanting the season to be summer all year long.(people relocate thousands of miles to bask in this fantasy). The best of Heath Ledger's career may have already been behind him. Not likely. But not without precedent.

But Roy Scheider. I loved watching him. His image may very well have imprinted on my soft young brain when I first saw him, as Martin Brody, in "Jaws" (1975). I enjoyed every performance of his I ever saw.

I saw "Jaws 2" (1978) on opening day with my friend John Horvath and though, even as a little kid, I knew the movie was crap, I was excited to be able to watch Roy Scheider again. I suppose Scheider - along with Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw - must have been among the very first actors whose names I knew.

Roy Scheider missed out on playing the lead in "The Deer Hunter" (1978) because of his obligation to do the "Jaws" sequel. And here we see the flaw in revering ever-expanding, ever-increasing successes. Had he done the role, we would have been robbed of one of Robert De Niro's great performances, and that film - one of the greatest American films ever made - would have suffered incalculably. So the Big Picture is working out well and one missed opportunity also means another opportunity somewhere else. The end of one career means the beginning of something else.

Thanks, Heath Ledger. Thanks, Roy Scheider.

BRODY: "What day is this?"
HOOPER: "It's Wednesday... eh, it's Tuesday, I think."
BRODY: "Think the tide's with us."
HOOPER: "Keep kicking."
BRODY: "I used to hate the water."
HOOPER: "I can't imagine why."

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2 Comments:

Neal...don't forget SORCERER!
Absolutely the most extreme, malaria-hallucination edge of total friggin bonkers scenario and performance ever! That WAGES OF FEAR redux spits at Werner Herzog and calls him a big pussy! The bridge scene! The moonlight hoodoos! Oh oh oh!

RIP Mr. Scheider

- By Anonymous D'Blusher, at Tue Feb 12, 06:39:00 PM GMT  

Dynamite movie, "Sorceror".

- By Blogger Neal Romanek, at Tue Feb 12, 09:25:00 PM GMT  

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