Thanks to Roy Scheider, it was okay for the good people of Amity Island to go back in the water again.

The actor, twice nominated for an Oscar but perhaps best known for uttering "You're gonna need a bigger boat" in Jaws, died Sunday night at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock. He was 75.

A hospital spokesman said Scheider had been receiving treatment for multiple myeloma for the past two years at the hospital's Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy. His wife, Brenda Seimer, told the New York Times the cause of death was complications from a staph infection.

In addition to playing beleaguered Police Chief Martin Brody in Steven Spielberg's 1975 chiller (and forgettably reprising the role in 1978's Jaws 2), Scheider enjoyed a multifaceted stage, film and TV career for nearly 40 years.

After a stint in the Air Force, his professional debut came playing Mercutio in a 1961 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Romeo and Juliet, and he continued to do theater while pursuing a film career.

After parts in a handful of lesser pictures, the Orange, New Jersey, native—whose notably angular features were partly the result of a broken nose suffered in a boxing match during his Golden Gloves days—scored his meatiest role to date as a pimp in the 1971 thriller Klute, for which Jane Fonda won a Best Actress Oscar.

Scheider made his mark on the Academy the following year, earning a Supporting Actor nod for playing Gene Hackman's partner, Detective Buddy Doyle, in The French Connection, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1972.

A second brush with Oscar came for his turn as the self-destructive Broadway musical director Joe Gideon, a character based in part on famed choreographer Bob Fosse, in 1979's All That Jazz.

Scheider's numerous other film credits include the Dustin Hoffman-starring mind trip Marathon Man (which at the time did for dentists what Jaws did for the ocean), the helicopter-based action flick Blue Thunder, the murder mysteries Last Embrace and Still of the Night, and 2010, the sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

To subsequent generations, Scheider is also recognizable as Captain Bridger from the sci-fi series SeaQuest DSV, and roles in David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, the big-screen adaptation of John Grisham's The Rainmaker, the HBO movie RKO 281 and the dysfunctional-family drama The Myth of Fingerprints.

He most recently played a dying serial killer who toys with Vincent D'Onofrio's Detective Goren in last season's finale of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

But it's Jaws that will keep Scheider recognizable for generations to come.

In a 2005 interview commemorating the film's 30th anniversary, Scheider said nobody working on the  production knew it would be the film that launched a thousand phobias, not to mention become the first motion picture to earn $100 million at the box office.

"I thought we were making a very good action film, and I enjoyed the scenes with the two other actors [Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, who died of a heart attack in 1978]," Scheider said.

"I don't think anybody realized that it would make that much of an impact, simply because they didn't realize how everyone is so afraid of anything that's in the water, whether it's in the bathtub or a toilet or a lake, or whatever. They just don't like what happens down in the water."

Scheider is survived by Seimer, his second wife; three children, including a daughter from his first marriage to Cynthia Bebout; a brother; and three grandchildren.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.