I always found Roy Scheider creepy, and I mean that as a compliment. The veteran character actor, who died yesterday at 75, may be best remembered for starring as the befuddled Chief Brody in Jaws, but throughout his celebrated four-decade film career, he always brought a dark edginess to his roles. (Even in his essentially comic Jaws performance, he displays the fidgety desperation of a man clearly in over his head.) Scheider specialized in playing tough, wiry, cynical, worldly-wise guys like cops, spies, gangsters, and politicians. He first gained notice as Jane Fonda’s pimp in Klute (1971) and earned his first Oscar nomination as Gene Hackman’s equally hard-boiled police partner in The French Connection the same year. He wasn’t afraid to be unlikable on screen; his second Oscar nod (and his crowning career achievement) was his performance as the womanizing jerk genius (pictured) in Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical All That Jazz (1979).
The ’70s were Scheider’s decade, full of meaty roles like these, as well as such grimy classic thrillers as The Seven-Ups (1973), Marathon Man (1976), and Sorcerer (1977). Scheider continued to do fine work after that, working consistently in mostly unmemorable films, though there were some standouts — sci-fi sequel 2010 (1984), Elmore Leonard adaptation 52 Pick-Up (1986), the surreal Naked Lunch (1991, featuring what may have been the creepiest role of Scheider’s career, as the reptilian Dr. Benway), and family drama The Myth of Fingerprints (1997), where he played a patriarch who hits on his son’s girlfriend. Like so many of Scheider’s roles, it was a performance oozing with oily, rancid charm. He made moviegoers shudder, often with revulsion, always with delight.
addCredit(“All That Jazz: Everett Collection”)