Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito: 1980s Films

Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito only made one film together, Tin Men. It came in 1987, during the decade when both men were hot. Their careers are quite different, although their careers are quite long, and both play equally well in drama and comedy. Dreyfuss had enjoyed two decades as a leading man before settling in as a character actor. DeVito has always been a character actor, but was often in a starring role, who also developed a very successful career behind the camera.

The 1980s was a very successful period for these men, highlighted by their teaming up for the comedy, Tin Men, a tale of two feuding aluminum siding salesmen in 1963.

Richard Dreyfuss catapulted to stardom in the 1970s on the strength of American Graffiti (1973), Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and The Goodbye Girl (1977). Prior to 1973, Dreyfuss was a young, quirky and sometimes over the top actor. Working with directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg placed Dreyfuss in the perfect roles to become an A List actor. Starring in Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, though it was hardly his best work.

In the late 1970s, Dreyfuss made some bad professional (and personal) decisions that had some significant speedbumps to his career. He was still hired for some big films, but it took almost a decade for him to regain his career footing with Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and would be cast as a co-lead from then on.

He was 40 years old in 1987, his hair thinning and graying, not ideal for a romantic lead; no matter, because Dreyfuss was always better in meaty, character roles along side another heavyweight actor. His huge A List success was behind him, although he had plenty of starring roles, usually with other strong leads to play off of. Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Stakeout, What About Bob and The Crew are great ensemble films. He could be counted on to bring his manic energy and flawed manliness to his best roles.

Dreyfuss was at his best in the 1980s with a combination of dramatic and over the top comedies.

Acting roles:

1989 Always
1989 Let It Ride
1988 Moon Over Parador
1987 Nuts
1987 Stakeout
1987 Tin Men
1986 Stand by Me
1986 Down and Out in Beverly Hills
1984 The Buddy System
1981 Whose Life Is It Anyway?
1980 The Competition

Dreyfuss was never a traditional leading man, he was an actor, who looked for meaningful roles. Even in the 2000s, late in his career, in some low budget films, Dreyfuss does not seem to walk through these roles for the paycheck. Maybe he does, but I think the man cares about giving a decent performance since the film goes on his resume. He travels the country talking about his films and career, so I believe he’s honest to his craft each time out.

About the time that Dreyfuss settled into character roles, former Taxi sitcom actor Danny DeVito transitioned to the big screen, first as a character and then as a producer/director. As successful as he became as a film actor, DeVito scored big hits with his production company and helmed a number of big budget films. His Jersey Films and Jersey Shore companies were co-owned with Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg until 2003, when the trio split, with DeVito retaining the company names.

Acting roles:

1989 The War of the Roses
1989 Two Daddies? (TV Movie) (voice)
1988 Sesame Street (TV Series) episode
1988 Twins
1987 Throw Momma from the Train
1987 Tin Men
1986 Amazing Stories (TV Series) 1986 The Wedding Ring
1986 Ruthless People
1986 My Little Pony: The Movie (voice)
1986 Wise Guys
1985 Billy Ocean (Music Video short)
1985 Head Office
1985 The Jewel of the Nile
1985 Happily Ever After (TV Movie)
1984 Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters (Music Video)
1984 Johnny Dangerously
1984 The Ratings Game (TV Movie)
1984 CBS Schoolbreak Special (TV Series short) 1984 All the Kids Do It
1984 Romancing the Stone
1983 Likely Stories, Vol. 2 (TV Movie)
1983 The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (TV Movie)
1983 Terms of Endearment
1978-1983 Taxi (TV Series)

DeVito stepped behind the camera during his Taxi years, opening up a new career.

Directing roles:

The War of the Roses, Throw Momma from the Train, Amazing Stories (TV Series) (1 episode), The Wedding Ring, Mary (TV Series) (2 episodes), Make My Day, From Pillar to Post,
The Ratings Game
(TV Movie), Likely Stories, Vol. 2 (TV Movie), Likely Stories, Vol. 4 (TV Movie), The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (TV Movie), Taxi (TV Series) (3 episodes)

Danny DeVito was an unlikely breakout star, but Taxi gained him a foothold in Hollywood and he seized the opportunity, becoming a powerhouse in the entertainment industry.

DeVito continued to act, produce and direct both feature and television projects. More recently, he has focused on his long-running television series, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and his voice work. His directing has moved mostly to the small screen. As a producer, DeVito has been quite busy as his Jersey Films was in many films including Erin Brockovich, Reno 911, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Be Cool, Along Came Polly, Man on the Moon, Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Pulp Fiction, Reality Bites and Hoffa.

DeVito on the other hand does not seem to worry about what people think about his acting choices. He appears in short films, television roles, voices animation and seems to work for the enjoyment. Remember, his first big role was the obnoxious and unlikable Louie Depalma on Taxi. He’s often played the antagonist or less than sympathetic character, which he does so well. There is a gentleness to other roles, which is made more effective because of the predominance of obnoxious characters.

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