Three mechanical sharks—all named "Bruce," after director Steven Spielberg's lawyer, Bruce Ramer—played the Great White in "Jaws." Made in California of polyurethane and steel, they traveled at great expense to the filming location on Martha's Vineyard. Because of deadline pressure, there was no time to test them first in ocean water.
Spielberg originally wanted to cast Robert Duvall as police chief Brody, Jon Voight as oceanographer Matt Hooper, and Lee Marvin as the crusty shark hunter, Quint. But the director never felt he needed big-name actors and happily settled on Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. As Spielberg later explained, "The superstar was going to be the shark."
The Great White Turd
The "superstar" didn't cooperate. The mechanical shark sank like a stone the first time it went into the water, after which the crew renamed it "the Great White Turd." Yet Spielberg would come to see the technical disaster as "a godsend." It forced him to rely less on the shark—to become, as he put it, "more like Alfred Hitchcock."
Duuun-dun. Duuun-dun. Dun-dun-dun-dun …
John Williams' Oscar-winning score relies on a simple baseline: two notes—E and F—played on a tuba. The first time he played it for Spielberg, on a piano, the director burst out laughing. But after the soundtrack was completed, Spielberg wrote, "John Williams has made our movie more adventurous and gripping than I ever thought possible."
The First Attack
Bruce never appears during the first attack, which takes place when Chrissie (stuntwoman Susan Backlinie) leaves an evening beach party to go skinny-dipping. For the shark attack, cables were attached to a harness around Backlinie's hips and then looped around pilings; crew members on shore then pulled on the cables to jerk her suddenly underwater.
A Farewell to Arm
Props included a plastic arm for the scene in which the girl's remains turn up on the beach. But Spielberg thought the prosthesis looked fake. He replaced it with a real arm—that of a local waitress named Andrea, who was partially buried, with her crab-covered hand poking out of the sand so the limb would appear severed. Before the scene was shot, Andrea soaked her arm in icy water to make it turn blue.
Since Martha's Vineyard prohibits billboards, the defaced one in "Jaws" had to be constructed and taken down in a single day.
A casting team on Martha's Vineyard used two rotary phones to call in some 400 extras for this display of mass panic—then sent them home because of bad weather. When the weather finally turned, the tide went out and the scene had to be shot in shallow water. As Richard Dreyfuss recalled, Spielberg "asked everyone to get down on their knees."
Alex Kintner on the Menu
Lee Fierro played Mrs. Kintner, mother of the second shark attack victim. In 1999 the actress wandered into a Martha's Vineyard fish joint that had an "Alex Kintner Sandwich" on its menu. "The name of my son from 'Jaws'!" Fierro exclaimed. The place's manager turned out to be Jeff Voorhees, who hadn't seen his screen mom since he played 11-year-old Alex 25 years earlier.
'A Bigger Boat'
Roy Scheider ad-libbed one of the most memorable lines in the movie: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw couldn't stand each other. Shaw needled Dreyfuss about his weight ("You couldn't even do 10 push-ups—at your age, it's criminal"). Once, while Shaw was boozing between takes, Dreyfuss took his drink and threw it overboard. The behind-the-scenes tension matched the hostility between them on screen.
The Indianapolis Speech
Robert Shaw thought a few drinks would help him get into character when he made Quint's famous speech about shark attacks during a secret mission to deliver "the Hiroshima bomb." But he got so drunk, he couldn't finish the the scene. He made up for it the next day, however. It was "like watching Olivier on stage," Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly. "We did it in probably four takes."
A Close Call for Hooper
Hooper was supposed to die in this scene. To make it as realistic as possible, Spielberg had footage of real sharks shot off the coast of Australia, with a small man in a scaled-down shark-proof cage to make the predators look as big as Bruce. At one point, when the cage was empty, a shark got caught above it and began to thrash wildly. The footage of this was so compelling that the screenplay was rewritten to explain the empty cage and Hooper was spared.
'This Shark—Swallow You Whole'
The climactic scene in which the Great White attacks Quint was so intense that the mechanical shark lost most of its teeth, according to Edith Blake's "The Making of the Movie Jaws." The author notes that Bruce had two sets of teeth—one made of hard plastic, for chewing boats and other inanimate objects; the other rubber, for gnawing on actors.
The Big Bang
For the explosive ending, Bruce's head was "filled with ten gallons of 'blood and guts' and four sticks of dynamite," Blake writes. The scene was shot with an array of cameras with various lenses to make sure there was "enough footage to satisfy even perfectionist Steve."
Produced at a cost of $9 million—more than double its original budget—"Jaws" broke box office records in the U.S., grossed $470 million worldwide, won three Oscars and ushered in the era of summer blockbusters. It also gave Spielberg carte blanche on future projects. He turned down the opportunity to direct "Jaws 2."
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