By People Staff
Updated February 25, 2008 12:00 PM

As a working-class kid growing up in Orange, N.J., Roy Scheider trained to be a boxer. Hard knocks in the ring left him with a jagged profile that later made him a natural tough guy on stage and screen. Hitting New York after a stint in the Air Force, Scheider scored a big break—and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination—as a cop in 1971’s The French Connection. But it was his role as the heroic island police chief in Jaws (1975) that made him a movie star. “No one anticipated the universal fear of water,” said Scheider of the movie’s impact. Still, he preferred his work as choreographer Bob Fosse’s alter ego in 1979’s All That Jazz, which scored him another Oscar nod. In recent years, the longtime Long Island resident battled multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. “Roy struggled like crazy to stay alive,” says his wife, Brenda Siemer, a documentary filmmaker. But after a Jan. 17 bone marrow transplant, it was clear the struggle was nearly over. Knowing time was short, Scheider decided to say goodbye to his loved ones. “He said, ‘I’ve had a beautiful 25 years with you,'” recalls his wife. “‘I’ve had a wonderful career and life.'”