What was supposed to be a night of questions and answers with actor Richard Dreyfuss in Beverly, Massachusetts in conjunction with a screening of his 1975 blockbuster Jaws turned into an evening of controversy, causing the theater to issue an apology for the actor’s “distressing and offensive" comments.

Dreyfuss appeared at The Cabot in Beverly on Saturday, May 25 for “An Evening With Richard Dreyfuss + Jaws Screening,” an event that has been held in similar theaters.

It was advertised as "a memorable evening covering all topics from acting to civic engagement, courage and seeking understanding."

Dreyfuss walked on stage in a dress to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” to a warm reaction from the crowd, before removing the dress and sitting down for a discussion with the moderator and to take questions from the audience.

According to online reports, the issues began when Dreyfuss was discussing Barbra Streisand and allegedly made disparaging comments toward women in the entertainment industry.

Multiple people on The Cabot’s Facebook page referred to Dreyfuss’ comments as “racist, homophobic, misogynist” and “bigoted” with others pointing out he had made similar comments the night before at the same event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Reportedly, about 300 people walked out from the event following the comments. Dreyfuss did get a raucous response from the crowd at the end of the discussion, though.

The Cabot’s Response to Richard Dreyfuss’s Comments

The Cabot sent out an email Sunday morning to ticket purchasers apologizing for Dreyfuss’s comments. WBSM was provided a copy of the email from one of the attendees, signed by Executive Director J. Casey Soward, which reads:

"Dear Cabot Patrons,

I am writing to address an important matter concerning last night’s event with Richard Dreyfuss at The Cabot.

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.

At The Cabot, we are committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community. The views expressed by Mr. Dreyfuss do not reflect our beliefs, and we do not endorse them in any way.

We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for any discomfort it caused.

We are taking immediate steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again. This includes more rigorous vetting of our event participants and more proactive communication strategies to keep our audience informed.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of The Cabot.

We value your feedback and are dedicated to learning from this experience to better serve our community."

The Cabot has a diverse lineup of programming, including events for Pride Month in June and a discussion event on May 28 titled "How Discrimination Shows Up in Our Community and What We Can Do About It," moderated by Dr. Andre Morgan.

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Dreyfuss Has Said Other Controversial Comments in Recent Years

Dreyfuss has made controversial statements in the past, including a May 2023 appearance on the PBS series Firing Line, in which he blasted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s new inclusion rules for the Academy Awards.

“They make me vomit,” he said. “Because this is an art form. It’s also a form of commerce and it makes money, but it’s an art,” he said. “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.”

“What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. You have to let life be life and I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”

He then went on to mention how Sir Laurence Olivier was the last white actor to play Othello, portraying the character in 1965 in blackface.

“He played a Black man brilliantly. Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man? Is someone else being told if they’re not Jewish they should not be playing ‘The Merchant of Venice?’” he said. “Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art? This is so patronizing, so thoughtless and (it’s) treating people like children.”

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