11 February 2008

We’re gonna need a bigger memorial service

Another sad loss of a great actor, although unlike Heath Ledger’s death, this one comes less unexpectedly.

Roy Scheider died on Sunday at age seventy-five after a long battle with cancer. Scheider was in a lot of great films, such as The French Connection (“You want to play hide the salami with his old lady?”), Marathon Man, and Klute. But his role in popular culture was forever cemented by his lead role as Chief Martin Brody in a little film called Jaws. Scheider himself provided the movie’s signature line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Scheider was part of a triptych of leads in Jaws, sharing credit with Richard Dreyfuss’s oceanologist Matt Hooper and Martin Shaw’s shark-hunter Quint. The three made a perfect triumvirate of Everyman, Expert, and Eccentric. As much as we love Quint’s eccentricity (“Here's to swimming with bowlegged women”) and Hooper’s comic scientist turns (“This was no boating accident!”), it’s Brody who is the heart of the film. He emerges on the scene early, and his struggle to keep the town safe, protect his family, and “do the right thing” in the face of a hostile town where he is viewed as an outsider, form the backbone of the story. It seems only right that he should slay the monster that has come to plague Amity, not the scientist or the hunter. The Common Man victorious. Scheider is a huge part of the film’s effectiveness, and I can’t imagine another actor who could have delivered the key part so well.

We’re gonna need a bigger memorial service.