The Dreyfuss affair: actor sues father for $4m

Richard Dreyfuss, who played Vice-President Dick Cheney in the recent George Bush biopic W, is at the centre of a real-life drama after deciding to sue his father and uncle over a personal loan he claims was never repaid.

The Oscar-winning actor has filed a lawsuit seeking $4m (£2.6m) in repayments, interest fees and damages related to an $870,000 advance he gave his relatives in 1984 to help with a 13-storey office building they own in downtown Los Angeles. Mr Dreyfuss accuses his uncle, Gilbert, and father, Norman, of acting with "fraud" and "malice" in refusing to turn over accounting records for the building that would show whether he should have had income from the investment.

His lawsuit further claims that the brothers diverted $6m from a lawsuit they won against the State of California over a lease arrangement for the building. It also states that they failed to repay a $13m loan against the property, causing a lender to start foreclosure proceedings.

Though Mr Dreyfuss, 60, has in recent years stepped back from the limelight, appearing in only a handful of films and claiming to be in semi-retirement, he retains a status akin to royalty in Hollywood, and his decision to sue two close relatives, with all the publicity it will entail, will be devoured by the showbusiness media. Originally from a tight-knit Jewish family in Brooklyn, Mr Dreyfuss is thought to have become estranged from his father, a former restaurateur and attorney, after the death of his mother Geraldine from a stroke in 2000. His lawsuit was originally filed last August.

The actor's private life has endured plenty of turbulence over the years. Having starred in some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1970s, including Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he became the youngest man to win a best-actor Oscar in 1978, at the age of 30, for his role in The Goodbye Girl.

But he swiftly became addicted to cocaine, and was arrested for possession of the drug in 1982 after driving his car into a tree, and forced to take an extended career break to spend a period in rehab. He has had three wives, and has been a longstanding victim of bipolar disorder. In 2006, he appeared on a documentary by Stephen Fry about depression to talk about his condition.

Mr Dreyfuss's father and uncle, who are representing themselves, did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment about the case yesterday. But they have denied in court documents that the loan was as old as the actor claims, and say he does not have a large enough stake in the disputed building to warrant repayment.