Lorraine Gary Got a Big Bite of Jaws 2—but Not, She Insists, Because She's the Boss's Wife
For Lorraine Gary, the scariest part of Jaws 2 is not when the shark makes like a Cuisinart on some hapless sailor. Nor was it when film critics held a vitriolic fish fry over the remake of the 1975 original. Rather, the moment that upset Lorraine most came last May when some angry stockholders stood up at MCA/Universal’s annual meeting and asked why Gary, reprising her supporting role as police chief Roy Scheider’s wife, netted a whopping $242,349 from the studio. Perhaps, they suggested, Gary had a little help from a friend: her husband, Sidney Sheinberg, 43, who happens to be the president of the company.
“I’m still quite defensive,” says Lorraine of the nepotism rap. “I feel very exposed. It hurts because there is a lingering doubt that I am worth the money.” Her original deal of $100,000 for 12 weeks, she points out, was inflated when her role wrapped six months behind schedule. Her take was not much more than that of co-supporting actor Murray Hamilton and, anyway, “Scheider made $35,000 a week times eight months plus a percentage of the picture,” she goes on. “If I had not been married to Sid, I might have had a percentage too.” (With the Jaws 2 gross at $51 million after five weeks, even a single point could be worth a fortune.)
“It’s a no-win situation,” agrees Sid. “Lorraine has every right to make any deal she can. I had nothing to do with it.” Hollywood scuttlebutt whispered that executive producer Richard Zanuck had suggested his wife, Augusta Summerland, for the part before Lorraine nailed it. Steven Spielberg, who directed the original (and declined the sequel), corroborates Lorraine’s assertion that no strings were pulled on her behalf.
To be sure, Gary has paid so many dues, professionally and emotionally, that she should be eligible for a screen actor’s pension at age 41. Her credits include dozens of TV parts (McMillan and Wife, Ironside) and movies like I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and Car Wash. But with a husband pulling down $300,000 a year, “I can’t pretend to have worked my way up through adversity. I need the money not for food like other people, but to prove that I’m worth something. Jaws freed me to discover that a successful movie didn’t make a damn bit of difference to my life.”
It is a life calloused by emotional turmoil. Her weight has ballooned as high as 150 pounds and she has undergone analysis four times. During Watergate, Lorraine was seeing Dr. Lewis Fielding, Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, and “coming out of sessions with tears in my eyes and looking straight into TV cameras.” Her most recent crisis came when “I started turning 40 at 38. I had pains all over my body. I couldn’t sleep, I had rampant anxiety, and I couldn’t stop eating and drinking.” She once drove 60 miles at 80 mph in search of a Whataburger, only to discover her emergency brake had been on the whole way. “That,” she wryly jokes, “was my break for freedom.”
Born Lorraine Gottfried in the Bronx, she moved to Beverly Hills at 11 when her father, a theatrical business manager, followed his clients west. She started acting as an eighth-grader in Beverly Hills. “It didn’t get me any dates, but I felt a lot better.” While studying drama at Columbia University, Lorraine met prelaw student Sheinberg on a blind date and next day wrote her mother that she’d found the man she was going to marry. They did, and promptly had Jon, now 20, and Billy, 18. Whipsawed between motherhood and professional ambitions, Gary had her first “breakdown of sorts. The first 14 years,” she says, “were rough.”
The Sheinbergs live in what Lorraine calls a “California Gothic” chateau in Beverly Hills. A Chinese couple makes the place go while Lorraine works at her profession and her causes: ERA, gay rights and gun control. A switch into producing fizzled last year when she was unable to land a Golda Meir TV biography. “I was totally inept,” she admits cheerfully. Instead, Lorraine is buoyantly heading next into Crash, a made-for-ABC airline disaster movie. “I’ve had my mothering years and my struggling years,” she says. “Now I’m confident and hopeful and wide open for suggestions for the future.” Of course, her future might be the past. There is already talk about Jaws 3.