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Richard Dreyfuss never doubted he would be a successful actor

Actor Richard Dreyfuss poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January, 2015.

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Fan Expo Canada features its usual parade of b-actors and cult-hit personalities, but this year's sci-fi fandango also features close encounters of the Richard Dreyfuss kind.

We spoke to the veteran American actor, known for roles in such major films as American Graffiti, Jaws, Stand By Me, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Goodbye Girl, What About Bob? and, yes, Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, from Los Angeles.

You won a best-actor Academy Award at 30 years old in 1977, for The Goodbye Girl. You recently said in an interview that you wish you had won that Oscar later in your career. But doesn't a belated honour make it seem like a lifetime achievement recognition, rather than being recognized for a role that you really nailed?

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That's true. That's absolutely true. But, at the same time, once you've won an award like that so young, there's kind of an assumption that you can do it all. And I was much more comfortable trying to prove I could do it.

Did winning the Oscar diminish your drive?

I think it did. It probably made me turn down some things I would probably not have thought of turning down had I not won the award. You're riskier when you're on the hunt.

Did you ever get that on-the-hunt mentality back?

Yeah, I did. But much later. I did a bunch of films around the year 2000. I did The Old Man Who Read Love Stories and others that I never would have contemplated doing because they were a stretch. But I did them. So, to a great extent, I did get it back. But I had let myself get lazy.

You played a struggling actor in The Goodbye Girl. Did you ever struggle all that much?

I'd been acting since I was 9. So, sure, I had my years of apprenticing. And while I was never uncertain I would finally succeed, I did have my years of bad acting and losing jobs before I ever became prominent in the public eye. I also had a firm grasp on a great sense of denial. I kept thinking I was the greatest actor since cottage cheese, and then when I looked back at the work I was doing at that time, I thought, "Holy moly, why didn't they just lock me up and throw away the key?"

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Can we say your apprenticeship ended with your first lead film role, in the Canadian film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz?

I guess that's about right. When I first saw it, I thought it was terrible. But then again, I was used to seeing myself as terrible for a while. Looking back later on, I thought it was a damn good performance.

You have a reputation for cockiness about your ability. But there was self-doubt early on?

I had no doubt of my eventual success. I knew I was apprenticing, where I would be good and bad. But it never impacted on my feeling of eventual success. That's what I was confident of. I always had that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Richard Dreyfuss appears at Fan Expo Canada (Aug. 31-Sept. 3) on Sept. 1, 2 and 3. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd., fanexpocanada.com.

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