When Jaws released in 1975 it brought on a wave of panic for beach goers everywhere because, after all, there was now something to fear in the water. Jaws is considered to be one of Steven Spielberg’s most important films and it serves as a hallmark in the way that humans view sharks, albeit not in a very positive light. While most people can quote the iconic film with ease (“You’re going to need a bigger boat”) there are still a ton of neat little facts floating just beneath the surface. We pulled together 20 crazy, interesting, and occasionally creepy facts about this classic film for your enjoyment. Keep reading, and don’t forget your lifejacket!
Richard Dreyfus was not Spielberg’s first choice!
While we can’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Hooper, apparently Spielberg wasn’t quite so high on Richard Dreyfus. According to casting rumors Jon Voight and Jeff Bridges were also strongly considered for the role. Can you imagine The Dude standing alongside Quint and Brody? Ah, what could have been.
Steven Spielberg was afraid of being typecast by ‘Jaws’.
Back in 1975 Steven Spielberg wasn’t a household name and he certainly wasn’t considered one of the most important filmmakers of all time. Spielberg opened up his career with the film Duel, about a menacing tanker truck driver, and he was afraid that Jaws would further typecast him as an ‘offscreen menace’ kind of director.
‘Jaws’ has an insane budget to box office ratio.
Making a Summer blockbuster back in the ’70s was much different than it is today. There were no tentpole projects swelling with 100 million dollar budgets. Jaws started off with a budget of $3.5 million before gulping down a total of $9 million dollars. At the time of this writing Jaws has earned over $400 million worldwide. Yeah, that’s pretty good. You can bet that chocolate gift baskets aplenty were being sent around the office.
Spielberg cut away much of Peter Benchley’s original novel.
You probably learned two things from this slide: Jaws was initially a novel and Spielberg wasn’t afraid to hack away at the plot. Among the many changes that Spielberg made was an affair subplot between Ellen, Hooper, and Chief Brody’s wife. Spielberg called that subplot “distracting” and it was quickly cut away.
This classic line was an ad-lib.
It never ceases to amaze us how actors can step onto a set and ad lib a line that completely blows the original writing out of the water. Roy Scheider’s famous line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat” was a complete ad lib. Now it is one of the most quotable movie scenes in cinema history. Way to make a writer feel bad. You can send us a few holiday gift baskets filled with chocolate to help.
Filming started in early May, despite being set in Summer.
Production on Jaws had to be rushed in the early going due to fear of a potential actors strike in 1974. So instead of waiting for summer to come into full swing the film started production in early May. If you pay close attention you will notice some scenes where trees have no leaves on their branches.
The movie was filmed in Martha’s Vineyard.
Location scouting for a film like Jaws requires a ton of very careful considerations. The crew needed a location with a great beach resort town, tides that they could work with, and shallow waters that looked good on camera. Martha’s Vineyard ended up being the choice after an extensive searching process. You can bet a film like this required great individual health insurance if only for the scenes in the water.
Steven Spielberg had a pair of hilarious nicknames for the shark.
While Jaws is definitely a terrifying film the odds are good that you’ll never see the shark the same again after this fact. Spielberg famously named the shark ‘Bruce’ after his lawyer. When Spielberg didn’t feel like calling the creature Bruce he would called it ‘The Great White Turd’. That second nickname only came out during long and frustrating days on set.
The shark in the film consisted of three different models.
Spielberg famously decided to take the ‘less is more’ approach with his famous beasty, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have a lot to show. The shark in the film was comprised of three different mechanical models that were steered via submerged scuba divers. We imagine that the production crew had to fight to find low cost health insurance for those divers.
Spielberg’s dog had a cameo in the film.
In the film we get to see Chief Martin Brody’s cocker spaniel a few different times. The dog on set was not regular ‘actor dog’! In fact, the dog was played by Spielberg’s own beloved pet, Elmer. Maybe that’s why he seems so at ease on set. We assume Spielberg treated him like a real A-Lister.
The Orca actually sank during filming.
Quint’s boat, the Orca, actually sank during production on the film. The production crew nearly lost an entire day’s footage after the camera gear was submerged in water. The reels had to be flown to a special lab in New York City to see if technicians were able to salvage it. They could, and they did.
Chief Brody was slapped for real, hard, in the film.
In the scene where Chief Brody gets his face smacked by actress Lee Fierro, who plays a grieving mother, the hits were actually real. Actor Roy Scheider allowed Fierro to really slap him instead of faking it because the actress was having a difficult time making it look real.
The infamous shark was never tested in the water before filming began.
For some unknown reason the production crew skipped testing their model shark in the water before beginning production. When the crew first laid the shark in the water the model quickly sank to the water’s floor. Not so intimidating now, eh? A shark with that kind of floating ability wouldn’t need a weight loss diet.
Spielberg thought the original theme for the shark was a joke.
The theme music for Jaws is almost as famous and recognizable as the film itself. When composer John Williams, a legend in his own right, first showed the two note track to Spielberg the director had thought that he was joking.
Actor Robert Shaw was drunk throughout filming.
With the edited cut of Jaws in theaters it is hard to see Robert Shaw as anything other then the captivating Quint. However, behind the scenes actor Shaw had some major issues. The actor apparently struggled with drinking throughout production and he had to repeatedly re-shoot his sequences.
Production on the film ballooned like crazy.
There were numerous major issues throughout filming that caused Jaws to extend its shoot dates. In fact the shoot schedule went from 55 days to 159 by the time it was all said in done, cratering the budget in the process.
The production flew in a tiger shark from Florida.
Animal lovers beware: you aren’t going to like this fact. For the scene where town officials think they catch ‘Bruce’, the production had to have a shark flown in for the scene. They ended up getting a 13 foot tiger shark from Florida, however by the time the body arrived it had already decomposed and was smelling terrible.
Famous director Adam Landis helped on the set.
During Jaws many hiccups during principal photography there were times when extra help ended up being needed. The production crew brought in young filmmakers to serve as crew members, including John Landis. Landis would go on to direct Animal House as well as An American Werewolf in London.
‘Jaws’ was not the first choice for the novel’s title.
When Jaws was first written there were a slew of names in consideration for the title. Among those names were: A Silence in the Deep, Stillness in the Water, Leviathan Rising, and the Jaws of Death. We like the simplicity of Jaws more than any of those other, wordier options.
Hooper’s fate was changed due to production mishaps.
Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper was supposed to end up as shark food during the scene where the shark cage is smashed and destroyed. However the shark ended up getting caught up in rope and various flotsam which gave Spielberg the idea to let Hooper swim out and escape.