August 09, 2006

Roy Scheider to be Honored by CancerCare

The actor Roy Scheider of Sagaponack will be honored Saturday when he receives the first annual CancerCare of the Hamptons award from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

CancerCare is an organization that has been close to Scheider's heart since even before he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

"I'd been a supporter for five or six years. Much to my chagrin I became a cancer patient a couple years ago." Scheider underwent a bone marrow transplant last year and said "I'm about due for another." Nevertheless, the Oscar-nominated actor said, "I'm alive, I'm functioning, and I'm very grateful."

Scheider rented a summer cottage 12 years ago and fell in love with the East End. "Then a property came up for sale [in Sagaponack]. I'm here year-round. This is my community."

Ironically, perhaps Scheider's highest profile role, as Brody in the mega-film Jaws, was written about the East End long before he fell in love with the place. Its director, Steven Spielberg, also became a fixture on the East End years later.

"Yeah, life doesn't imitate art," Scheider said with a laugh.

The actor had heard Spielberg, then a young, well-regarded filmmaker with a modest portfolio, talking with another director about the upcoming project, based on the Peter Benchley (another East Ender) book.

"He was talking about a fish biting a boat in half and I'm thinking, 'No way.' But then Steven called me about a month later."

Scheider earned his Oscar nomination for his role as Det. Buddy Russo in The French Lieutenant. "You're the kind of guy" the producers wanted, Spielberg told Scheider.

The pair are still friends. In fact, on August 24 at Guild Hall in East Hampton, Jaws will be shown on the big screen for the first time since its premier. The event will be a benefit for The Hayground School and the director and star will host a Q & A after the screening.

Scheider said at the time of the original filming the cast had no idea how big the movie would become. "We spent five months in the water. There were many times the shark wouldn't work. The tipping point was everyone had such an enormous fear of the water."

Scheider, a Hollywood regular for the better part of four decades, has handled a host of difficult roles, but All That Jazz must be on the top of the list. He handled the dance scenes so effortlessly most viewers assumed he had professional training.

Not so.

"I was hired two weeks before we began filming. It was damn hard work. I didn't have those kinds of muscles. I was used to hanging in the bath!"

As in another case of life imitating art, he not only prevailed, he triumphed. "It's called acting," he said.

Saturday's event will be at the Sagaponack home of Robert and Soledad Hurst. For more information about the event, and how to make contributions to CancerCare, call Linda B. Shapiro at 631-329-5480.

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