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

Actor Richard Dreyfuss is facing backlash for allegedly sharing remarks that audience members found sexist, homophobic and generally offensive at a Q&A event over the weekend tied to a Massachusetts theater’s screening of “Jaws.” Dreyfuss starred in the 1975 blockbuster that was filmed in Massachusetts and screened Saturday night at The Cabot, a performing arts center in the coastal community of Beverly.

Dreyfuss wore a dress to the “Jaws”-themed event, where he proceeded to make demeaning remarks about women, LGBTQ+ people and diversity. The venue issued an apology after the event, which it had billed as “An evening with Richard Dreyfuss” to accompany the movie screening.

The 76-year-old actor, who played a marine biologist in “Jaws,” walked onstage wearing a blue, floral-patterned dress that stage workers helped him remove before he put on a sport coat. A YouTube video of his entrance shows Dreyfuss perform a sort of improvised dance in the dress as he takes the stage, while the song “Love Story” by Taylor Swift plays in the background.

During what was supposed to be a lighthearted question-and-answer session, some people in the audience walked out over his remarks about women in film and the #MeToo movement, transgender youths and LGBTQ+ rights, and the Academy Awards’ efforts to foster inclusivity. Dreyfuss has previously said the academy’s diversity efforts “make me vomit.”

“We walked out of his interview tonight along with hundred [sic] of others because of his racist homophobic misogynistic rant,” one user commented on The Cabot’s Facebook page.

Dreyfuss received applause when he ended the discussion by referencing his book, “One Thought Scares Me…” and his opinion that civics is no longer being taught in classrooms, to the country’s detriment. The lack of a foundation in civics means “we have no knowledge of who the hell we are,” he is heard saying in another video shared online from that portion of the Q&A.

“And if we don’t get it back soon, we’re all going to die,” Dreyfuss continued. “Make sure your kids are not the last generation of Americans. And you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

The Cabot sent an email apology in which it said it didn’t endorse the opinions of the actor, who also starred in “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” “American Graffiti” and “The Goodbye Girl,” a performance for which he received an Oscar. The venue’s executive director didn’t respond immediately to emails Tuesday, and a representative for Dreyfuss could not be reached.

“We deeply regret that Mr. Dreyfuss’s comments during the event were not in line with the values of inclusivity and respect that we uphold at The Cabot. We understand that his remarks were distressing and offensive to many of our community members, and for that, we sincerely apologize,” The Cabot’s statement said. 

The venue shared an additional statement Tuesday on social media.

“We are aware of, and share serious concerns, following the recent event with Richard Dreyfuss prior to a screening of the film ‘Jaws’ at The Cabot,” that statement read in part. “We regret that an event that was meant to be a conversation to celebrate an iconic movie instead became a platform for political views. We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for the discomfort it caused to many patrons.”

The Cabot said that it is in “active dialogue with our patrons” to hear their experiences and is “committed to learning from this event how to better enact our mission of entertaining, educating, and inspiring our community.”

Dreyfuss was subject to criticism last year over his comments in an interview on the PBS program “Firing Line with Margaret Hoover,” where he discussed new inclusion initiatives for the Academy Awards. Initially announced in 2020 and implemented for the Oscars this year, the Academy said it was creating a set of eligibility standards for Best Picture contenders “to encourage more equitable representation on and off screen.” 

“They make me vomit,” Dreyfuss said when asked what he thought of the eligibility requirements. “Because this is an art form. It’s also a form of commerce, and it makes money. But it’s an art. And no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. And what are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that.”

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