The Mysterious Girl He Saw

While in the grips of addiction to cocaine and other substances, Richard Dreyfuss' life was turned around by visits from a child no one else could see.

- Posted on Jul 15, 2015

Actor Richard Dreyfuss received a very myserious visitor while in substance abuse recovery.

American Graffiti. Jaws. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Who hasn’t seen at least one of those great Richard Dreyfuss movies? By the late 1970s, fresh off an Academy Award for The Goodbye Girl, Richard was at the top of Hollywood’s A-list.

But he hid a dark side, a secret that was becoming public. Drugs and alcohol were Richard’s way of self-medicating his undiagnosed bipolar disorder, he says in the book Moments of Clarity. He was so far gone he couldn’t even remember filming the movie Whose Life Is It Anyway?, in which he played a painter paralyzed in a car accident.

Not long after, leaving a friend’s house drunk and high on cocaine, he experienced a real crash—he wrapped his Mercedes around a palm tree.


Richard was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. People came and went from his room: producers, stars, directors. One visitor was different. A girl, about eight years old, in a pink-and-white dress and horn-rimmed glasses. No one else seemed to notice her.

Richard left the hospital. His downward spiral continued. He went to recovery meetings stoned. And that little girl haunted him. One night, at a drug-fueled party, Richard couldn’t ignore her anymore. The image of innocence tugged at his heart.


“There was no little girl in my life. I wasn’t married, I had no kids,” Richard recalls. But he knew, in that moment, that she was the girl he would kill if he continued his destructive behavior. He went home, threw out all his booze and pills, and the next day attended his first recovery meeting sober.

Years later, he learned the little girl’s true identity: “I sobered up on November 19, 1982. My daughter was born November 19, 1983. My daughter wears horn-rimmed glasses. She wouldn’t be caught dead in a pink dress, but it was my daughter, and the older she gets the more I see it.”

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