Please allow me to clarify, before the torches are lit, pitchforks sharpened, riots ignited and social media riled up in arms: I absolutely DO NOT under ANY circumstances support this 1975 classic EVER being remade, rebooted or otherwise resurrected in any way, shape or form as a franchise, PERIOD!
On the list of properties that should never be touched again, this progenitor of the summer blockbuster is in my personal top 10 (That may be its own blog in the future). Nobody that I’m aware of on Earth would want this IP to fall prey to Hollywood’s seemingly insatiable hunger for rehashing everything that could make them more money (because original ideas are too hard and risky for their precious bottom line). No living member of the cast that I know of would want that. Director Steven Spielberg, who’s notoriously protective of the property, has been adamantly clear over years of being repeatedly asked that he wouldn’t support that. Perhaps most importantly, the overwhelming majority of fans have voiced in nearly unanimous agreement (A rarity for any fandom, to be sure) that they don’t want that.
Why? Hmm, I don’t know… Maybe because it would be the filmmaker’s equivalent of spitting in the holy grail of creature-feature horror (Yes, this movie absolutely counts in the horror category even if Spielberg commented that he didn’t intend that, it literally had people in theaters screaming, puking, fleeing and/or fainting). Point being, Jaws as a series is DONE. It’s been buried for over 34 years since the last pitiable entry. But just for argument’s sake, let’s indulge a hypothetical and imagine what would happen if someone were dumb enough to not leave this brand sleeping with the fishes in peace.
What If A New Jaws Did Happen?
Let’s set aside the history of how 1987’s Jaws 4: The Revenge thoroughly mutilated what miniscule interest was left in the story. We’ll pretend that enough fans could forgive how the last giant shark in a long running bloodline of unusually large sharks was changed from what was originally a quasi-believable predator into a Saturday morning cartoon villain. Lest we forget, this fish somehow not only recognized the blood of the exact family whose patriarch killed two of its toothy relatives (I guess Great Whites have the sharpest taste buds in the animal kingdom, who knew). It also tracked them underwater from New England to the Bahamas, a habitat Michael Brody himself exposits is unusual for this species.
Fun fact: The distance from Martha’s Vineyard (where Amity Island was filmed) to the Bahamas is roughly a 1,193 mile trip by plane. The average modern commercial aircraft’s cruising speed over long distances is approximately 547-575 mph. The Great White’s maximum recorded speed to date is about 35 mph in short bursts. So, for such a shark to complete that journey, were it able to defy its biological limits and maintain a constant speed of 35 mph without food or rest, would take just over 34 hours (Yes, I used a time/distance calculator because my mental math hasn’t been what it used to be since 10th grade).
On top of that amazing feat, unlike the previous sharks, this one also apparently had some unexplained telekinetic link with the wife of late Amity Police Chief Martin Brody who was himself killed offscreen between sequels by a “fear”-induced heart attack (Because that’s how fans of this character wanted his life to be canonically ended, in a sense effectively giving the sharks the last laugh over a decade later). Let’s also gloss over how this was the last nail in the coffin for Lorraine Gary’s film career, which ironically began with the first Jaws, and nearly did the same to Michael Caine. That is, until his slow comeback throughout the 90’s was finally rewarded in 2002 via his portrayal of Austin Powers’ super-spy father Nigel in Goldmember, then as Batman’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth in the Dark Knight trilogy.
Even if we could get past all of that, the fact of the matter is, Jaws as a concept simply wouldn’t work today. No matter who directed, produced, wrote and/or marketed it, no matter how masterful of a script, cast and effects you had to work with, the core-idea fundamentally doesn’t carry the same weight anymore. Thus, it would never perform to the same results critically even if it succeeded financially. As painfully obvious as this all may sound, I’ll gladly list three reasons to support my POV for the minority of fans, critics and/or contrarians out there who (like me) often enjoy playing devil’s advocate:
- The “killer shark” motif has been done to death in other stories spanning virtually all mediums. Though far from the first sea monster fable in general (Spielberg commented on how the shark and Quint were influenced by Moby Dick’s Ahab and white whale), Jaws did single-handedly create the shark sub-genre. It basically did for sharks what George A. Romero did for zombies. The concept has since been milked so dry of ideas that we’ve actually reached a point where not one but SIX Sharknado movies exist. A Jaws revival, whether it took the original plot in new directions or did a shot-for-shot remake, would follow over three decades of oversaturation and creative fatigue. The element of surprise that helped make the original so effective for audiences new to the premise in 1975 is gone. I am not exaggerating when I say that pretty much everything a fictional shark can possibly do, we’ve probably already seen at least once by now.
- The suspension of disbelief would be weaker, as we’ve learned far too much about sharks since the 70’s. Rogue Shark theory, for instance, never held much water (pun 100% intended) even back then and has been conclusively debunked multiple times. Sure, a minority still believe Megalodon isn’t extinct which is one reason why popcorn flicks like The Meg and mockumentaries like Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives draw attention. Nonetheless, Jaws was not designed as a fantasy. Enough individuals hold more general knowledge about sharks today that it would take more effort to turn their brains off and take what they see seriously.
Re-releasing Jaws on Blu-ray or in theaters is different, as we already love it and its pre-existing reputation would aid in those ventures. A new film wouldn’t have that history of positive reception to help it sell. Not to mention, I imagine environmentalists would have some strong words. Quoting late author Peter Benchley, who wrote the novel that Spielberg’s adaptation would turn into a best-seller: “The shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain. It would have to be written as the victim; for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors.”
- If you somehow managed to get everything right and keep viewers glued to a new movie up until the end, the catharsis of that iconic finale can still never be recaptured. Despite vehement protests from Benchley on the ending’s realism, Spielberg famously replied “I don’t care.” and eventually had him forced off set. The director’s instincts were proven correct when audiences went nuts at the beast’s demise just as he’d predicted, but expecting that same reaction today is wishful thinking. If Jaws’ sequels taught us anything as they kept trying to one-up each other, it’s that sometimes, no matter what we do, there’s just no catching lightning in a bottle twice.
However you slice it, there is realistically no scenario where this franchise will ever return to its former glory. Jaws was a great story, and now it’s OVER. However, there is another story behind the movie that I’m honestly astounded has yet to be told on the silver screen. And it’s through this that I believe Jaws as a pop-cultural icon can offer today’s moviegoers an experience worthy of selling out theaters once again.
Film Pitch: A “Based On True Events” Comedic Drama About The Making Of Jaws
If ever there was proof of Mark Twain’s quote “Truth is stranger than fiction”, this is some prime evidence. The behind-the-scenes accounts for Jaws are so compelling, harrowing, and at times hilarious that they’ve provided content over decades of interviews, TV programs, and a book. Many of us at this point have presumably seen at least one of the documentaries recounting this masterpiece’s journey, from its humble beginnings as a paperback partially inspired by 1916’s Jersey Shore shark attacks to the cinematic phenomenon that would make waves around the world (Yes, another pun, no regrets).
On multiple fronts, one could argue that this is indeed a crazier story than the work of fiction (No small feat, considering how outlandish the fiction becomes). For this among other reasons we’ll get into, I believe the best way to renew interest in the movie while respecting and honoring its legacy is with an R-rated period piece “dramedy” giving a new window into this incredible true story. What I’m proposing is not another documentary, nor a found footage film. I’m talking about essentially a feature-length reenactment of events between 1973-75 conveyed from the POV of those who were there. There may be points where actors’ faces are spliced into scenes from Jaws as well as real behind-the-scenes footage, but only sparingly. All the major players (and some minor) whose contributions made this film possible would play a role. Of course, as much as I’d ideally love to credit every single crew member, there wouldn’t be enough screen-time to cast or otherwise acknowledge literally everybody. If any original cast members wanted to cameo as citizens of Martha’s Vineyard, they’d certainly be welcome.
At the center, naturally, would be 27 year old Steven Spielberg: A then inexperienced director with big dreams who was handed his greatest challenge in what would become one of the most nightmarish productions in cinematic history. Working alongside him are an unlikely crew of stars, writers, producers, and others gathered to bring this at first glance ludicrous idea to life. See? Now, based on what I just described, tell me you and/or someone you know wouldn’t be interested to see that story on the big screen? There may never be guarantees in the film business but, as far as delivering a premise ripe with box-office potential, I’d wager that any studio would have pretty good odds here.
Much like Jaws, this narrative would have a bit of everything for audiences (except less gory killing and blood-curdling terror). There’d be laughs, tears, chills, suspense, hard-earned catharsis, fascinating insights into 1970’s Hollywood and detailed recreations of the production. It practically writes itself! Regarding the faithfulness of the “Based on a true story” angle, I’d imagine something along the lines of The Big Short with a similar sense of humor, realism and heart. Although, perhaps it could be less meta in addressing real life inaccuracies (I’d rather just be as accurate as one reasonably can, making changes & concessions only where absolutely necessary). To that end, my first instinct would be to ask Spielberg if he’d be interested in helping to write this movie or at least consult. The question naturally becomes, however, which actors today could portray the faces behind the film? Well, after weeks of scrolling through careers, names and faces, I have a few suggestions in mind.
My only standards are that each choice must be capable of acting the part (Though they don’t all necessarily have to be professional actors, let alone A-listers), and young enough to plausibly portray the characters at the age-range they were from 1973-75. Most visual differences can be handled via contacts, makeup, wigs, bald-caps, etc. Now, we’ll review my candidates alphabetically, feedback is welcome:
Carl Gottlieb: John Carroll Lynch
A list of solid performances spanning nearly 30 years of film & TV across myriad genres makes Lynch an easy choice. Plus, with a hairpiece and mustache, he could more than convincingly portray Gottlieb.
David Brown: Dax Shepard
The other half of the then named Zanuck/Brown production company, this man and his business partner Richard D. Zanuck were the first to take an interest in the book that would find its way into Spielberg’s hands. There are multiple actors who could fill the shoes of this important player in the film, but Shepard would be my first pick. Give him some gray hair, contacts, a balding head, and his acting can do the rest.
John Williams: Ryan Gosling
This one was tougher for me to figure out, as there aren’t many actors I could find who bear much resemblance to the younger Williams. On the short list of potential candidates, I believe Gosling would pull it off with little trouble and a daily trip to hair & makeup. In addition to being around the right age-range, Gosling’s facial features are similar enough that his acting would be the icing on the cake. If he weren’t available, the best runner-up I could recommend is probably Edward Norton.
Lee Fierro: Lena Headey
From Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ titular hero to her more famous role as Game of Thrones’ corrupt Cersei Lannister, Headey would bring a powerhouse delivery to Fierro’s portrayal. Since a movie about the making of Jaws would involve reconstructing segments of at least a few iconic scenes, I can’t think of anyone better to bring back the tear-jerking tragedy of Mrs. Kintner.
Lorraine Gary: Julie Bowen
Though more commonly known today for her comedic role as Modern Family’s Claire Dunphy, Bowen is no stranger to serious performances, having played a brief stint as Roxanne Please on the medical drama ER from 1998-99 and Adam Sandler’s more grounded romantic interest in ‘96’s Happy Gilmore. Add to that her years of experience as a mother (fictional & non-fictional), and portraying Gary both on and off camera is well within her repertoire. Speaking of Sandler…
Murray Hamilton: Adam Sandler
Okay, just hear me out. I’m well aware that not everyone is a fan of this guy. I’ve heard all the criticisms toward him and his company Happy Madison Productions. Nevertheless, anyone who’s seen Reign Over Me or Uncut Gems knows that Sandler is capable of disappearing into a role when he puts his mind to it. He’ll always be remembered as a comedian first-and-foremost, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do more. Like another casting choice we’ll get to, this one almost stumped me because there’s almost nobody today that I could find who resembles the late Murray Hamilton and can act out his personality. Given Sandler’s penchant for impressions and similarly contagious smile, I believe he’d be up to the challenge.
Peter Benchley: Michael Fassbender
After seeing his portrayal of the titular star in 2015’s Steve Jobs, I’ve little doubt that Fassbender could embody the man who gave Jaws life and teeth (With glasses, the resemblance is stronger).
Richard Dreyfuss: Andrew Lincoln
This one was almost a godsend, as I’d followed this British star from Love Actually to The Walking Dead. Yet, I strangely never realized until very recently how much of a dead ringer a bearded Lincoln could be for marine biologist Matt Hooper. With some tan, hair dye and those glasses, it would be a done deal. And with Lincoln’s years of experience developing Rick Grimes’ Southern Georgian accent, I have every confidence that he could apply that acting range to impersonating Dreyfuss’ dry comedic wit. If Lincoln’s busy trying to once again woo Keira Knightly, then Ryan Reynolds or maybe Chris Pratt could work.
Richard Zanuck: Dean Zanuck
This is the one instance where my recommendation wouldn’t be an actor, both because I couldn’t find any stars who looked enough like Richard D. Zanuck and because I don’t think hiring someone to play him would be required. The legendary film producer’s son Dean, bearing some resemblance already, knew his father better than any actor could. Surely, he would have heard stories of his work over the years, especially on Jaws. So, why not just have Dean portray the senior Zanuck and act out those experiences? That is, assuming he’d be comfortable in a role meant to pay tribute to his dad.
Robert Shaw: Jude Law
Another slam dunk! Law’s reputation speaks for itself, making him a safe bet to authentically revive the short-lived legend. Not to mention, his role as Robert Downey Jr.’s faithful crime solving partner Dr. John Watson in their Sherlock Holmes films shows that he could pull off some handsome facial hair.
Roy Scheider: Nathan Fillion
I was stuck on this one for a while, to the point of asking people for their suggestions online. Honestly, Scheider had such a unique profile that it’s virtually impossible to find a potential doppelganger for him. James Woods came close enough in his youth, but the time has sadly passed where he could portray Scheider in his early 40’s without considerable de-aging CGI (I’d personally rather avoid that if possible). As far as our current options, Fillion is a fine choice. If not him, then the only alternatives I can think of are Jon Bernthal, Logan Marshall-Green or Frank Grillo.
Steven Spielberg: Adam Driver
The most important and thankfully easiest casting is young Spielberg himself. I’ve had only one choice in mind since first pondering this idea, and Driver was clearly born for the role. Seriously, the resemblance even without costume, contacts and hairstyling is uncanny! I can say with no hyperbole that no one else to my knowledge on this planet could play Jaws’ fresh-faced director (Believe me, I searched).
Apart from physical attributes, the man has more than proven his acting chops in performances running the emotional gamut, each one feeling genuine. From the at times heartbreakingly relatable husband of Marriage Story to Bill Murray’s zombie killing buddy-cop partner in The Dead Don’t Die, the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy’s Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, or his starring roles in BlacKkKlansman and The Report (two works also based on true events), Driver’s done a little of everything. I’ve zero reservations in trusting that he’d make audiences believe he actually is Spielberg. He brings everything to the table that one could hope for!
Susan Backlinie: Ashley Benson
I was almost as surprised here as with Andrew Lincoln. I’ve seen Jaws countless times since early childhood and had known of Benson from years of watching her in Pretty Little Liars. Once again, with a little work in hair color and some tan, she’s got the rest pretty much covered to play the actress & stuntwoman responsible for terrifying generations of swimmers in that opening scene. While Benson may still be young in the eyes of the industry, she’s established her performative skill via Hannah Marin and demonstrated her physicality as the kick-ass Lady Lisa in 2015’s Pixels. If Benson bowed out, my other candidates include AnnaSophia Robb, Emma Watson or possibly Emma Stone.
There are dozens of players in this story I haven’t yet figured out casting for (Bill Butler, John Milius, William S. Gilmore, Chris Rebello, Jay Mello, Sidney Sheinberg, Carl Rizzo, Joe Alves, Ron & Valerie Taylor, etc). But I think what we’ve got so far would be a good start. Feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments, but Adam Driver is non-negotiable. The whole idea falls apart without him.
If I had my way, I’d exclusively use Jaws’ score throughout this film. It only seems fitting to use the brilliant work John Williams crafted to set the mood for every scene of the story behind the fiction. Almost every track of this score is so ingrained in pop-culture (not just the adventurous chase music aboard the Orca or the immortalized shark theme) that it would feel almost sacrilegious to use standard period-appropriate songs. We already had a love letter to 70’s music in Disney’s 101 Dalmations prequel Cruella, and one of its most recurring criticisms was the borderline-obnoxious overuse of that decade’s Top 100 singles.
Meanwhile, countless remixes, copyright-evading copycats and references across media have shown us how Jaws’ timeless music can be applied in myriad situations while still making complete sense in context. Ex- Imagine Williams’ “Father and Son” theme playing during a somber scene where a sad Spielberg, much like Brody, is sitting quietly in the dark. Isolating himself inside the cabin where he stayed on Martha’s Vineyard, his attention is swept up in silent thought. He ruminates over the failures and setbacks that have piled up until this moment as well as the challenges that lie ahead tomorrow. Perhaps he’d briefly think about fond childhood memories with his own parents and how he misses his family? This could be the exact same atmosphere as how the music was used in Brody’s kitchen scene with his son Sean, but with a new context. And that’s just one instance off the top of my head. New scenarios can be found for each song to fit, audibly complementing the emotional roller-coaster of this real life ordeal.
Life Imitates Art
If we want to go the extra mile for homage, maybe a couple sequences could more overtly parallel the scenes where certain music was used in sound and cinematography style. Perfect example- Show a montage of Steven and the crew each working hard to get things set up for a very important upcoming day later in production (making calls, organizing, having heated conversations, etc) and play Williams’ “Montage” over that to mirror Jaws’ scene where Brody & Hooper organize their July 4th beach patrol.
Once Upon A Time In Martha’s Vineyard
In order to go the distance for authenticity, the only way I can see a film about the making of Jaws being believable would be to return to the setting of Amity Island. Yes, a number of modern locals from this quiet Massachusetts community might give me flack in the comments for even entertaining this idea. After all, to say that the populace were upended by the production/media circus that fateful summer is a gross understatement. After 47+ years of technological advancements, a studio’s first choice would likely be to recreate Martha’s Vineyard on a set with water tanks & CGI to cover all the details. Unfortunately, my gut tells me that all the movie “magic” in the world simply wouldn’t cut it.
However much it looks and sounds like the island (town, docks, bank, police station, Brody house, etc), there’s ultimately no substitute for the genuine article. So much of the community’s geography and architecture have surprisingly remained relatively unchanged from decades ago. Going back to recreate the production on location would be overall easier and more cost-effective compared to the expenses of building a fake Amity. Granted, even for someone like me who’s never worked in the industry, I’m certainly neither ignorant nor unsympathetic to the challenges this would entail.
Much like Back to the Future’s impressive recreation of 1955 or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood making audiences feel like they’d time-traveled back to 1960’s Los Angeles among other areas, this kind of project would involve transforming a significant amount of space to look exactly as it did in the 70’s. The surroundings, vehicles, clothes, people, everything on camera would have to fit the illusion alongside existing footage. So yeah, definitely no small task by any means… But I maintain that this would be the most effective approach to make it feel real. Otherwise, what’s the point? It comes down to a question simple in its goal but complex in logistics: What should be the priority here, convenience or effectiveness?
The Double-edged Sword Of Success
This may not be an aspect of Jaws’ history that anyone particularly likes to remember, but to omit or downplay such important history would be disingenuous and insulting to all parties involved. As much as some of us hate to admit it, we as a society & species are generally impressionable when it comes to media. Be it fiction, reality or some mix of both, the harsh truth is that it’s not difficult to manipulate your average Joe or Jane under the right circumstances. We like to believe that this will end when we reach adulthood, but there are times when kids prove more perceptible, more open-minded and possess more basic sense than us grown-ups. To be fair, I wouldn’t take this belief to the extreme.
I wouldn’t agree that we’re all just mindless sheep being puppeteered from the shadows by our lizard overlords in the Illuminati either (I know, that sounds exactly like something a reptilian would say). But there is no denying that storytelling has a long track record of exploiting the masses’ ignorance, and Jaws is no exception. Directly responsible for inspiring years of overfishing that drove many shark species near extinction, it also instilled a deep-seated fear and hatred of them (especially the Great White) that persists to this day. While we do know a lot more compared to back then, there are still those influenced by the myriad movies, TV, video games and other content which continue to misrepresent these animals as bloodthirsty demon-fish stalking the beaches for human flesh.
This was ironically exacerbated by the endless flow of merchandising that only made Jaws bigger as it made its way overseas. A story of Spielberg’s rise to fame cannot fully capture the weight of that victory without acknowledging the price that came with it. To be clear, I would NOT want to villainize, vilify, or undercut Steven by any means. The man is one of my idols in storytelling and has made several of the films which shaped my life. But I wouldn’t characterize him as a saint, hero or victim either. He should be seen as nothing more or less than a human being, admirable in his ambition but also flawed like any of us. However audiences judge his character, it should be as close to the real him as we can get.
What I’d imagine for a finale is the celebration and accolades between Jaws’ cast & crew after the theatrical opening, with uplifting music giving way to a slow dimming of enthusiasm. We then see a progression of news headlines and footage showing the mass murder of sharks, environmental effects, and Spielberg’s reaction as he realizes the monster he’s unleashed has grown far beyond his control. Whatever he says or does now, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle and some critics out there will despise him for it. The responses of Benchley, Gottlieb, Zanuck and others soon follow, the author expressing regret at what he wrote and what it’s become. It wouldn’t all be bleak though.
As unapologetically honest as I’d want this story to be, we should see the silver linings too. This would include the resulting craze of interest in sharks, explosion of students entering marine biology, advancements in research, conservationist efforts, and a shared desire to prevent the oceans from losing Great Whites forever. Tonally and emotionally, it should feel like a turbulent sea with Spielberg trying to tread water as the waves of positives and negatives crash against each other. At the end of it all, an older Steven (Driver in middle-aged makeup with grayer hair) is sitting in a studio backstage by himself years later (like he used to in that cabin). He’s preparing for some kind of convention or panel with press & fans eagerly waiting to discuss the impact of his many successes since 1975. Sounds of excitement faintly echo in the background as a staff member tells him he’ll be going onstage in a couple minutes.
Perhaps one of his colleagues (Ex- A member of the cast) could walk in, sit with him and ask if he’s okay. There’s no music, effects or other trickery, just a quiet moment between old friends. They give each other a knowing look, with Steven possibly bringing up the gravity of what all this cost. His friend would then remind him of what they accomplished, concluding that they can’t change the past but should stand by their decisions out of respect to everyone who sacrificed to help them get here (Ex- Robert Shaw, who’d be long dead by this point after his passing on August 28, 1978). The staff then tell the two film legends “It’s time” and Spielberg stands with a reserved smile. In a final wide shot, the camera stays behind him as he walks onstage, greeted by his adoring public’s cheers and stage lights. Fade to black, roll credits.
Celebrating The Art And Triumph Of Filmmaking
“I thought my career as a filmmaker was over. I heard rumors that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule.” – Steven Spielberg
If there’s one thing just about everybody loves, regardless of generational or cultural differences, it’s a good underdog story. We love narratives about overcoming and achieving goals that once seemed unattainable. True accounts can add to this resonance many times over, as the fact that such miraculous things occasionally do happen often further motivates us to persevere for our own dreams. Of course, if it was that easy to get what we wanted in life, everybody would do it (which I think would make the world a terrible, boring and even more chaotic place than the one we already live in). Regardless, even for the jaded, cynical minority who typically look upon such achievements with apathy, envy or anger, there is something instinctively satisfying about seeing the impossible become reality. Jaws may not fit the definition of a miracle, as the final product had virtually nothing to do with luck. To me, surmising it that way takes something away from the months of work owed to all those who contributed.
This timeless classic that made Steven Spielberg a household name was the end-result of hundreds of individuals’ blood, sweat, tears, intelligence, creativity, ingenuity, sleepless nights, sunburned days, at times split-second improvisation, commitment and teamwork fueled by raw, unrelenting grit. Whatever angels the crew may have had watching over them, their legacy is one they earned every last bit of thanks to everyone from the director, writers and producers to the people who cleaned up the trash at the end of every day. The townspeople too, for all they endured, did their part.
Every brain, set of eyes, pair of hands and dirty shoes in the water built this, the little B-movie most of Hollywood expected to remember as one of film’s most spectacular cautionary tales. That’s all the more reason why this story deserves to be retold. Its timeline of less than three years has everything for a David vs. Goliath conflict on par with Benchley’s original concept of “Man vs. Shark”… “Man vs. Film”:
- Young Spielberg’s initial apprehension about being assigned to the project
- The chance encounters and happy accidents that brought everyone and everything together
- Battling the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean
- The dangerous and occasionally life-threatening stunts
- The threat of the Screen Actors Guild strike
- The shark’s redesigns, malfunctions, and leaked photos in Time Magazine
- Going 157 days over schedule and several million dollars over budget
- Relentless pressure & threats from Universal’s top brass, whom Zanuck had to continually fight
- The efforts of Spielberg’s colleagues to help him keep his head when he considered quitting
- The nightly discussions of what to do next, which helped forge close friendships
- The growing tensions between cast and crew as cabin fever set in
- The feud between Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw compounded by the latter’s alcoholism
- The struggles of getting the right shot, wasted days, lost work, and daily script changes
- Pioneering on-location filming at sea, such as with Bill Butler’s innovative “waterbox” camera
- Spielberg’s chronic stress, recurring nightmares, emotional outbursts, and efforts to hide his struggles from the crew while combating both external and internal doubts about his own abilities
- The nail-biting buildup to opening weekend followed by Spielberg and company sitting in the auditorium and witnessing those first audience reactions that ended in uproarious applause
There’s a whole script for a beautiful, mature edge-of-your-seat drama in here just waiting to captivate the world! As for what I’d title such a project, I’ve not a clue. Maybe “The Shark Is Working” (just a one word difference from the documentary The Shark Is Still Working) or something to that effect?
Whether you enjoyed or disliked my ideas, I think most of us can at the very least agree that Jaws is more than a movie. It’s art, history, and Americana all wrapped in a relatable tale. Both on and offscreen, it’s a testament to the human spirit, the power of imagination, defying the odds, and the payoff of cooperation. It has mesmerized, horrified, and inspired people from all walks of life through an unforgettable experience that all began with an at the time unknown author asking “What if?” On behalf of the fandom, I believe this pitch is worth exploring. Even if nothing comes of it, I can’t imagine a better way to honor Spielberg and his team’s work than by showing the new generation their long climb to the summit.
If you’d like to see more behind-the-scenes content for Jaws or have a favorite documentary you want to re-watch, everything I viewed in preparation for this blog is listed below!