Sometime when a movie star dies it's like losing someone you know. I feel that way about Roy Scheider. I guess like most people I became aware of him with The French Connection and Jaws but somehow he wound up in several of my favorite movies.
Blue Thunder (1983) was one of the last adventure movies made with any tie to reality before the advent of the steroid action hero leading man. I showed it to a friend just a few weeks ago when it was shown on HDNet and it holds up remarkably well for a 25 year old movie. It's the kind of part that can become caricature easily but thanks to Scheider it never does. (Movie trivia- Malcolm McDowell's evil grimace in the flying scenes was the result of deathly air-sickness which he experienced whenever he was up in the air. So if you thought his tight lipped, bug eyed expression was great acting, it was actually an attempt to keep his lunch from becoming airborne.)
2010 (1984) was Peter Hyams' sequel to Kubrick's masterpiece and while it didn't hold up against it's predecessor (or the book) it wasn't bad thanks mostly to Scheider's performance. A good example of his understated talent is seen in his reply to the Russians' statement that he would interpret the telemetry. "Good." His delivery of this throwaway line always makes me laugh.
All That Jazz (1979) saw Scheider play a character that was, for all intents, the director- Bob Fosse. As Joe Gideon, Fosse's alter ego, Scheider sings, dances, takes uppers and downers, smokes (even in the shower), has unprotected sex with many partners, choreographs a musical, edits a movie, and is an unforgiving perfectionist with himself and everyone around him. Yet somehow Scheider makes the character likable in spite of all that. All That Jazz is a musical for people who don't like musicals and an excellent movie that stands up as a movie even without the singing and dancing. If you haven't seen it- go right now and rent it. One of the best ever and morbidly fitting for reasons I won't spoil for you.
Jaws needs no introduction. And again Scheider's understated style works perfectly to bring a sense of reality to the movie. Spielberg's direction, Dreyfuss' humor, Shaw's earthiness, were all held together by the anchor of Scheider's point of view. He serves as surrogate for the audience and the performance never draws attention to itself while at the same time being nuanced and expressive. A lesser actor with such a part and such a cast around him might be overshadowed. Roy Scheider was not.
Death comes to every man but few men leave behind them the record that Roy Scheider did. His work and talent exist for all time. I'm saddened by his passing but gladdened by the legacy of the great movies he made. He will be missed.