One of the most iconic theme songs in film history. One of the most legendary lines in horror films (“We’re going to need a bigger boat”). It literally made people afraid to go into the water. It invented the modern blockbuster. And it launched the career of fledgling director Steven Spielberg. Today, he’s one of the most celebrated directors of the modern age, but at the time of Jaws’ filming, Spielberg was just a young director with a huge budget, an ambitious concept, and one of the most fearsome villains ever put on screen. It was a long road from the script to the water, though. Here, for your consideration, are thirteen things you didn’t know about Jaws.
1. The On-Set Tension Was Real
In the film, shark hunter Quint and consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper are constantly at odds throughout the course of the story. As it turns out, Robert Shaw, who plays Quint, and Richard Dreyfuss, who played Hooper, really didn’t like each other in real life. Of course, Spielberg, in turn, got some great intensity from the men when it came to squabbling on the ship.
2. That “Bigger Boat” Line Was Not in the Script
Perhaps the film’s most famous line is said by Police Chief Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider. After seeing the wreckage caused by the monster shark, Brody exclaims, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” According to the film’s screenwriter, this line wasn’t in the original script. Scheider ad libbed it on the set and the director kept it in.
3. Da Dum…Da Dum…Spielberg Hated the Score
When the film’s score was originally presented to the young director, composer John Williams — probably the most famous/decorated composer in Academy history — said that Spielberg laughed and said, “That’s funny, John, really; but what did you really have in mind for the theme?” Spielberg has since stated that Williams’ brilliant, ominous score is one of the major reasons for the film’s success.
4. Shaw’s Drinking Issues Affected the Shoot
Robert Shaw was considered something of a problem on set, considering his burgeoning problems with alcohol abuse. In one instance, he actually attempted to give a lengthy monologue while drunk, wasting an entire evening of shooting. The actor called the director, apologized, and then went in the next day and nailed the scene in one take.
5. “Save the Actors!”
At once point, an accident on the set caused the ship to sink with several actors and crew on board. Spielberg began calling over a bull horn for the safety boats to come save the stars. Reportedly, one of the tech crew who was holding a tape recorder over his head screamed, “F**k the actors, save the sound department!”
6. ‘Jaws’ Was the Original Blockbuster
When the film released in 1975, it drew more than 67 million Americans to the theater to see it. Lines were so long that moviegoers literally wrapped around the block in order to wait their turn to see jaws. Hence, the term “blockbuster” was born, and Hollywood movies were changed forever.
7. Gregory Peck was Vain and Kiboshed a Scene
Spielberg’s original idea for introducing Quint was to have him in the back of a movie theater, loudly ridiculing the special effects in 1956’s Moby Dick, which starred Gregory Peck. Peck, who owned part of the rights to the movie, refused to allow a clip to be used, not because he was against the general idea, but because he didn’t like his own performance in Moby Dick.
8. The Test Reaction to the Severed Head Wasn’t Good Enough for Speilberg
At one moment in the film, when a human head shows up briefly in the bottom of the boat, the test audience literally screamed in fright. Speilberg, irritated, reshot the scene in a friend’s swimming pool, because he wanted to make his audiences scream louder.
9. Nerds With Toys
At one point during the film’s production, Spielberg took some buddies to check out his movie’s shark. Those buddies were Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and John Milius. At any rate, when Lucas stuck his head in the shark’s mouth for a lark, Spielberg and Milius snuck over to the controls and caused the shark’s mouth to clamp down on the future director of Star Wars. Unfortunately, the shark malfunctioned and Lucas was caught. Fortunately, the friends were able to dislodge the director and the group skedaddled in order to avoid getting in trouble for potentially messing up the film’s most expensive prop.
10. A Shark Named Bruce
On set, Jaws was actually nicknamed “Bruce.” Bruce was also the name of Steven Spielberg’s lawyer. No, it wasn’t a coincidence. Three “Bruces” were made for production: one with an open right side, another with an open left side, and a third with full shark clothing. Each one cost at a whopping $250,000.
11. The Shoot Was Long, Chaotic and Over-budget
Filming Jaws was something of a nightmare for Steven Spielberg. His schedule tripled in length, from 52 days to 155 days. The $3.5 million budget swelled to $8 million. Universal Studios was extremely annoyed at both the delay and they let the young director know it. In addition, Shaw spent a lot of time drunk and the weather at Martha’s Vineyard was very uncooperative. On the last day of shooting, he reportedly jumped in a speedboat after the last shot and shouted, “I shall not return!”
12. There’s a Big Difference Between Sharks and Whales
Steven Spielberg only got the job to direct Jaws after the original director, Dick Richards, was fired. Why, you ask? When that guy met with producers and studio execs he said that his first shot would have the camera show the whale coming out of the water. The director was fired because the studio wasn’t comfortable hiring someone who didn’t know the difference between a whale and a shark.
13. Robert Duvall’s Influence on ‘Jaws’
Iconic actor Robert Duvall, who also played Tom Hagen in The Godfather, was an enormous influence on Spielberg when the director was deciding to make Jaws. In fact, Spielberg himself said Jaws would have never happened without Duvall’s influence. Duvall was even offered the film’s lead role of Martin Brody, but he turned it down because he was afraid it would make him too famous. Duvall wanted to play Quint, but Spielberg said the actor was too young.
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