Producers’ Dreyfuss Admits Lack of Musical SkillsDate: 19 October 2004
Prior to his sudden departure yesterday (See News, 18 Oct 2004), days before performances begin for the West End premiere of The Producers, Hollywood star Richard Dreyfuss admitted that he couldn’t sing or dance and suggested that there were backstage tensions which producers wanted to prevent him from discussing with the press.
In an interview with the Evening Standard’s weekly magazine Metrolife – which was conducted last week and due for publication this Thursday but extracted in today’s newspaper in light of yesterday’s announcement – Dreyfuss said: “I can’t (sing or dance). Actually, I sing like a seal and dance like your Uncle Leo at that wedding where he got up and went ‘ya ya ya’.
“Now whenever I admit this, there’s a co-producer on the show who goes: ‘No! No! Don’t say that to journalists!’ But there’s no way for me not to say it because, hey, you’re going to ask, right? I told him, ‘Look take out an ad on the front page of each arts section and town and have it say, ‘Please don’t think that you’re paying to see Richard Dreyfuss sing and dance because you’ll only be pissed off.’”
Dreyfuss also explained that he’d never sought the role of Max Bialystock - immortalised on film by Zero Mostel in Mel Brooks’ original 1968 film and created on stage by Broadway’s Nathan Lane, who will now fill in for Dreyfuss – which would have marked his musical debut. “What happened was I said to a friend I’d taken to the show, ‘Boy, that would be a fun part to do’ and someone overheard me and called Mel and Mel called me.’”
Speaking to Metrolife, he suggested that his lack of musical ability and resistance to toeing the party line in interviews had led to tensions in rehearsals with the famously fiery Brooks. He recalled saying; “Tell Mel Brooks this: ‘Please don’t yell at Richard. Richard doesn’t like to be yelled at. Let’s have a relaxed and creative atmosphere. Richard thinks of this as fun, not business. Business is about bullying and being nasty and, if any of that is directed at him, he shuts down because he feels it’s all his fault.’”
Officially, Dreyfuss (pictured with Brooks and co-star Lee Evans) decided mutually with producers to withdraw because of a recurring shoulder injury exacerbated by the rigours of the role (See News, 18 Oct 2004). A statement from show producers said that they hoped Dreyfuss “will be able to rejoin the company when his physical condition permits”, though the actor flew home to the US yesterday.
Revelations from the Metrolife interview follow Dreyfuss’ PR bungle on television for last week’s Frank Skinner Show, in which he urged the audience not to come and see the £5.5 million musical until after Christmas (See The Goss, 18 Oct 2004). Dreyfuss is the second high-profile star to stumble after being cast as Max Bialystock. When multi award-winning British actor Henry Goodman was hired to succeed Lane on Broadway, he was sacked before being allowed to face the critics (See News, 16 Apr 2002).
The UK production is still due to open, as scheduled, on 9 November 2004, following previews from this Friday, 22 October. Lane is contracted on a temporary basis until 8 January 2005 ahead of filming for the screen version, which begins in February.
- by Terri Paddock