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The Only Main Actors Still Alive From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

If you rank every Steven Spielberg movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" might not be at the absolute top of the list, but that's just because the filmmaker has such a ludicrous number of amazing movies on his résumé that something has to give. Beloved by critics and audiences, the movie explores humanity's pursuit of the unknown from various viewpoints, from intellectual researchers to passionate laymen with personal UFO experience, and even the poor souls who have to witness their loved ones' single-minded obsession over this quest.  

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a science fiction classic, but given the fact that it premiered in 1977, it's easy to suspect that many of the people you see in it have already passed away. While this is unfortunately the case, there are also several major actors from the movie who are still alive. Let's take a closer look at them. 

Richard Dreyfuss (Roy Neary)

Roy Neary may join the extraterrestrials to travel the stars at the end of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," but Richard Dreyfuss is still firmly on planet Earth. A veteran of well over 120 movie and TV projects and counting, Dreyfuss' best movies include absolute classics like "American Graffiti," "Jaws," "The Goodbye Girl" (for which he won an Academy Award), "Stand by Me," and "Mr. Holland's Opus" — for which he was nominated for another Academy Award for best actor. 

Apart from his acting career, the untold truth of Richard Dreyfuss includes lots of personal and professional ups and downs. Unfortunately, the actor has caused some controversy in recent years. Dreyfuss' controversial "Jaws" screening was supposed to be a celebration of the classic shark movie, but the actor's Q&A session soon became contentious thanks to assorted derogatory comments he made about women and LGBTQ+ people. 

Teri Garr (Ronnie Neary)

In "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the versatile Teri Garr is more than a match for the daunting task of playing Ronnie Neary, a woman who tries to cope with her husband's descent into what seems like unhealthy obsession but might be something far stranger. Like many other key actors in the movie, she was already an established performer; audiences knew her from roles like Inga in Mel Brooks' "Frankenstein Junior." 

After the movie, Garr continued acting in all sorts of projects, and landed an Academy Award nomination for her role as Sandy Lester in 1982's Dustin Hoffman comedy "Tootsie." Garr has also acted in movies like the Jim Carrey comedy "Dumb and Dumber" and Robert Altman's comedy-drama "Prêt-à-porter," among many others. However, she hasn't appeared onscreen since 2011 for a tragic reason. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, though she already experienced some symptoms in 1983. This ended up affecting her career even before she officially revealed the diagnosis in 2002, and she ultimately decided to focus on her health and educating the public about MS instead of pursuing further roles. 

"I think my career would have changed anyway at a certain age, but Hollywood's very finicky about everyone being perfect," Garr said in an interview with Brain & Life. "When things slowed down, it was either the MS or that I'm a stinking actress, so I chose to believe it's the MS. There's definitely fear and misunderstanding out there about what MS is, and that's one of the reasons why it's so important to me to go out and talk about it."

Bob Balaban (David Laughlin)

Bob Balaban played UFO expert Claude Lacombe's (François Truffaut) assistant David Laughlin in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and went on to appear in a truly astounding number of different projects. He's established himself as one of Hollywood's more prominent character actors, turning up in 127 titles as of 2023. 

Balaban was one of the producers and stars of Robert Altman's 2001 black comedy "Gosford Park," which earned him and co-producers Altman and Robert Levy an Academy Award nomination for best picture. You can spot him in films like George Clooney's "The Monuments Men," Bennett Miller's "Capote," and M. Night Shyamalan's "The Lady in the Water." He's also one of Wes Anderson's regulars, appearing in the filmmaker's "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The French Dispatch," and "Asteroid City." A prominent voice actor, he narrates Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" and voices the King in "Isle of Dogs." On the TV front, he's played Russell Dalrymple on "Seinfeld," among many other roles. He's also directed multiple times.

Balaban has remained comparatively obscure, and in a 2018 interview with the podcast "I Think You're Interesting" via Vox), he said that he was perfectly content with the situation. However, he's been in so many movies and TV shows that he keeps getting semi-recognized in public, and sometimes gets confused with the similar-looking Ron Rifkin ("Alias," "L.A. Confidential"). Balaban has crafted a standard reply for situations where someone asks him where they know him from. "You really don't know who I am," he described as his go-to answer. "I'm an actor. I'm not famous. You've seen me in a hundred million things, and you have a vestigial memory of what I look like. So you will not know who I am, and you're not expected to. So that's okay."