Richard Dreyfuss’ remarks about women and diversity prompt Massachusetts venue to apologize

Actor Richard Dreyfuss is encountering criticism for reportedly making statements that many audience members perceived as sexist, homophobic, and broadly offensive during a Q&A event connected to a Massachusetts theater’s screening of “Jaws.” Dreyfuss starred in the 1975 hit film that was shot in Massachusetts and shown Saturday night at The Cabot, a performing arts venue in the coastal town of Beverly. Dreyfuss wore a gown to the “Jaws”-themed evening, where he proceeded to make belittling comments concerning women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and diversity. The venue issued an apology following the event, which it had promoted as “An evening with Richard Dreyfuss” accompanying the movie screening. The 76-year-old performer, who portrayed a marine scientist in “Jaws,” arrived on stage in a blue, floral-printed dress that stagehands assisted him in removing before he donned a blazer. A YouTube clip of his entrance showcases Dreyfuss performing a kind of spontaneous dance in the dress as he ascends the stage, while the song “Love Story” by Taylor Swift plays in the background.

During what was intended to be a playful question-and-answer session, some individuals in the audience exited over his comments regarding women in cinema and the #MeToo movement, transgender youth and LGBTQ+ rights, and the Academy Awards’ initiatives to promote inclusivity. Dreyfuss has previously stated that the academy’s inclusivity measures “make me vomit.” “We exited his interview tonight along with hundreds of others because of his racist homophobic misogynistic rant,” one user remarked on The Cabot’s Facebook page.

Dreyfuss received applause when he concluded the discussion by mentioning his book, “One Thought Scares Me…” and his belief that civics is no longer being taught in schools, to the nation’s disadvantage. The absence of a foundation in civics means “we have no knowledge of who the hell we are,” he is heard stating in another online-shared video from that segment of the Q&A. “And if we don’t regain it soon, we’re all going to perish,” Dreyfuss added. “Ensure that your children are not the last generation of Americans. And you understand precisely what I’m referring to.” The Cabot dispatched an email apology, stating it didn’t support the views of the actor, who also starred in “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” “American Graffiti,” and “The Goodbye Girl,” a role for which he earned an Oscar. The venue’s executive director didn’t immediately reply to emails Tuesday, and a representative for Dreyfuss couldn’t be reached. “We deeply regret that Mr. Dreyfuss’s comments during the event did not align with the principles of inclusivity and respect that we uphold at The Cabot. We recognize that his remarks were upsetting and offensive to many community members, and for that, we sincerely apologize,” The Cabot’s statement conveyed. The venue was contacted for further comments but did not provide an immediate response.

Dreyfuss faced criticism last year for his remarks in an interview on the PBS show “Firing Line with Margaret Hoover,” where he discussed new inclusion measures for the Academy Awards. Initially announced in 2020 and enforced for the Oscars this year, the Academy stated it was developing a set of eligibility criteria for Best Picture contenders “to promote more fair representation on and off screen.” “They make me vomit,” Dreyfuss expressed when questioned about the eligibility standards. “Because this is an art form. It’s also a form of commerce, and it generates revenue. But it is art. And no one should be dictating to me as an artist that I must conform to the latest, most current notion of morality. And what is at risk? Are we truly risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that.” “It’s about the reality that 50 years ago, without notifying anyone, they removed civics from the curriculum of all public schools in America, which means we have no comprehension of who the hell we are,” Dreyfuss commented on the matter. “And if we don’t retrieve it soon, we’re all going to perish. Make sure your children are not the last generation of Americans. And you know exactly what I’m referring to.”

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