Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

Jaws: The Truth Behind ‘That’ Speech

Quint, the grizzled and very seasoned shark hunter, played brilliantly by Robert Shaw, is easily one of cinema’s great characters. His bravado, his charm, his personality simply make a him the best of the main three protagonists in the movie Jaws. He has some of the finest dialogue in the entire film and delivers each and every word with conviction. Right here, I’m going to explore the truth behind one of his most famous deliveries.

“Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”

– Quint

You see, this is quite simply one of the most profound and deep-meaning lines captured on film ever. It may seem like a completely throw-away piece of dialogue at first, but it’s when we begin to peel back the layers of not just what is being said, but also how it is said, that’s when we can really begin to analyse it’s true meaning.

Nah, just joking. That’s just a funny little quip. But in all seriousness, I really do want to take a look at an absolutely wonderful piece of writing and acting from Jaws. I want to look at the real story behind a very specific speech. That being Quint’s recollection on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

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The Speech

First up, a quick reminder (as if you need one) of the speech in question.

“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Heh.

[Quint pauses and takes a drink]

They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. Y’know, it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in a battle like, uh, you see in a calendar, like the Battle of Waterloo, and the idea was, shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, and sometimes the shark’d go away… sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. Y’know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’… until he bites ya. And those black eyes roll over white, and then… oh, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, the ocean turns red, and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces.

[Quint pauses]

Y’know, by the end of that first dawn… lost a hundred men. I dunno how many sharks. Maybe a thousand. I dunno how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland- baseball player, boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up… bobbed up and down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. Young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. Y’know, that was the time I was most frightened, waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a life jacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred sixteen men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

[Quint pauses, smiles, and raises his glass]

Anyway… we delivered the bomb.”

– Quint

That’s a damn fine example of a picture being painted with words, one of the best four minutes of cinema ever. Some amazing writing and delivered perfectly by Robert Shaw’s acting. That one scene, that speech is actually Steven Spielberg’s favourite bit of his own film, and it’s easy to see why too. But the thing I want to take a look at in regards to that speech is the truth behind it. Jaws may be a fictional movie, but the USS Indianapolis, the secret mission and its sinking were all very true. Quint’s speech is not 100% factual though, there are a few embellishments to add to the drama of the scene or possibly just not fully researched to be accurate enough, but overall, it told the same story. Here is the real story of what happened to the USS Indianapolis and I’ll point out some of the changes as I go, I’ll list the differences in bold so they stand out from the rest of the text.

The Real Story Vs Quint’s Story

So yes, there was a United States Navy ship called the USS Indianapolis and yes, it did go on a secret mission related to the Hiroshima bomb and most of what Quint says is true, to a point.

USS INDIANAPOLIS

The USS Indianapolis had already been involved in several World War II campaigns before she met her fateful end. Helping out in both the New Guinea campaign and the Aleutian Islands campaign, the USS Indianapolis also took part in numerous battles including the Landing at Amchitka, Battle of Tarawa and the Battle of Saipan to name a few. After several years of service and battles, the USS Indianapolis was in need of repairs and an overhaul to get her up to standard for a top secret mission. After her work, she set out from San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on the 16th of July, 1945. Her mission was to deliver a huge payload of enriched uranium and various bomb parts to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean. She made the journey and delivered her payload on the 26th of July, after a stop at Pearl Harbor on the 19th of July.

Already here, there is a little discrepancy between Quint’s speech and the real story. Quint says they delivered the Hiroshima bomb, which is not strictly true. The USS Indianapolis delivered several bomb components and the uranium used to build the world’s first first nuclear weapon nicknamed ‘Little Boy’, the Hiroshima bomb. But it didn’t deliver the bomb itself.

After the delivery, the USS Indianapolis went onto Guam for a change of crew. She then left Guam on the 28th of July and headed for Okinawa to join Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf to join his Task Force 95. But there was a stop over planed on Leyte Island first, a journey she never made. It was around twelve-fifteen in the morning on the 30th of July, 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was stuck by two torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine. They struck her on her starboard side, causing massive damage. As the USS Indianapolis was kitted out for war, it was very top heavy with weaponry, cannons and the like. She began to take on water, the USS Indianapolis rolled completely over, the stern rose in the air and she quickly sank, and all within twelve minutes of impact with eleven-hundred and ninety-five crew-members on-board.

Most of what Quint says is true for this part. They delivered the bomb (parts) and set sail for Leyte Island from Tinian Island (after a stop off at Guam). It was a Japanese sub that slammed two torpedoes into her side too, and she did sink in twelve minutes. Quint also said that eleven-hundred men went into the water, it was a little more then that, but I guess he was just rounding down? However, around three hundred men actually went down with the ship and drowned. Now, Quint never says that didn’t happen, nor does his speech say that it did, but it does seem to suggest that all of the crew were adrift, which wasn’t exactly true. In reality, there were just shy of nine-hundred men in the water after three-hundred drowned as the ship sunk, not the eleven-hundred that Quint suggests.

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It was around ten-twenty-five in the morning on the 2nd of August, 1945 when a PV-1 Ventura patrol bomber flew over and spotted the crew of the USS Indianapolis adrift in the ocean. The pilot, Lieutenant Wilbur “Chuck” Gwinn and his co-pilot dropped a life raft and radio transmitter. The alarm was raised within seconds and all available units came to the rescue.

Quint says that the mission was so secret that the crew were not known as missing for a week. That’s definitely not true, the alarm was raised a little over three days later. Certainly not a week. But Quint is right when he said that a Lockheed Ventura saw them, it just wasn’t a week later as he claimed. But there is a discrepancy here as Quint says that the crew were not listed as overdue/missing for a week… but also says the plane spotted them after five days? Is he counting a week as five days, not including the weekend?

Many of the crew died of dehydration and hypernatremia, some suffered terrible delirium and hallucinations and killed themselves fearing they would not survive anyway. Exactly how many died from actual shark attacks is unknown. Around nine-hundred crew survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and were cast adrift, of those, only three-hundred and sixteen were saved.

So this is where Quint’s speech is at its horrific best. This is where he describes the tiger sharks, the high-pitch screaming of the crewmen, the ocean turning red with blood as the sharks began their attack. A thousand sharks eating a hundred men by the first dawn, averaging six men an hour according to Quint. Do the maths here, if (as Quint states) they were adrift for a week and a thousand sharks were eating a hundred men a day (average). Six (men) x twenty-four (hours) x seven (days) = one thousand and eight. Plus, going by Quint’s wording, all eleven-hundred crew were adrift (not true as some drowned or were killed by the explosions of the torpedoes). Anyway, Quint does say that eleven-hundred men went into the water and that only three-hundred and sixteen men come out. Those survival numbers are dead-on accurate to the real story… but he does say that the ‘sharks took the rest’. So Quint is claiming that of the eleven-hundred in the sea (rounding down remember), the sharks ate seven-hundred and four men minimum. As covered, it’s not known exactly how many were actually eaten by sharks, but it certainly wasn’t seven-hundred, three hundred drowned going down with the ship remember, others committed suicide, some died of dehydration and hypernatremia. So all in all, it was definitely fewer than the seven-hundred and four as Quint says.

As I have previously covered, the USS Indianapolis was hit by two torpedoes and sank within twelve minutes on the 30th of July, 1945.

But that’s not what Quint says, he ends his speech saying that she sank on the 29th of June, 1945. The date wasn’t even close, the day was twenty-four ours out yes, but it was completely the wrong month. Why the date is so wrong I have no idea, it was widely known at the time of writing when the USS Indianapolis sank. It was known as the worst sea disaster in the U.S. Navy’s history… still is. 

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All in all, Quint’s re-telling of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is pretty damn close. Yes, there is some embellishment, perhaps to increase the tension and horror of the scene? A longer wait for rescue and more shark attacks than were probable, more gruesome and bloody deaths does make it sound a lot more horrific than it was… and it already was an horrific incident. But why the date of the actual sinking is so wrong I have no idea.

Anyway, even with the errors, either purposefully made or genuine lack of research, Quint’s USS Indianapolis speech is mesmerising. It’s brilliantly written, wonderfully acted by Robert Shaw and directed to perfection thanks to Steven Spielberg. But to end this article, I want to just throw in some interesting tit-bits connected to the whole scene and the Quint character himself.

Tit-Bits

The film, Jaws may have been fiction, as were the characters. But there was some grain of truth to Quint himself. Frank ‘The Monster Man’ Mundus was a keen fisherman from Montauk, New York. He had quite an eccentric personality and took great pride in displaying the many sharks he had killed over the years. The TV documentary, Shark Hunter: Chasing the Great White (narrated by Roy Scheider, who played Martin Brody in Jaws) was about Frank’s life as a shark hunter. The documentary even covers that fact that Frank Mundus was the inspiration for Quint in Jaws. Even Robert Shaw who played Quint said that he played the character as Frank Mundus, copying many of his traits and mannerisms. So Quint kind of existed in the real world. Just as a side note: Frank Mundus actually began to feel bad for all the shark killing he did and became a shark conservationist later in his life. He died in 2008 aged eighty-two.

Frank Mundus

Robert Shaw was a terrible alcoholic. The first time they sat down to shoot that scene, he was so drunk that he kept forgetting and slurring his words. The footage was useless and Robert walked away deeply embarrassed. The next day, he sat down to talk with Steven Spielberg, apologised for his behaviour and asked for another chance at the scene. So they set up again and this time, Robert was sober…

“He really wasn’t able to do it that day. The next day he came in stone sober and absolutely knocked it out of the park.”

– Steven Spielberg

What is seen in the film is an edit of both the first drunken attempt and the sober one (can you even tell which cuts are which?). But according to Steven Spielberg, Robert Shaw nailed the scene in one take when he was sober.

The original speech was written by John Milius (Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now, Red Dawn, to name a few of his writing credits), unfortunately, it went on a bit too long… around nine or ten pages. Robert Shaw worked out that the speech would take about fifteen minutes to deliver on screen. So Robert took the epic soliloquy away and edited it down to what is spoken in the film. So not only was Robert Shaw responsible for the amazing delivery of the scene, he was also responsible for it not sending you to sleep.

The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis was believed lost, never to be found. Yet seventy-two years later, on the 19th of August, 2017, she was finally found. On the floor of the Philippine Sea, during a search led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

For a rather depressing end and a bit more of the true story behind the speech. The commanding officer of the USS Indianapolis was Captain Charles B. McVay III, he was wounded by the sinking, but survived. A Navy Court of Inquiry stated that Charles McVay should be court-martialed for the loss of the USS Indianapolis. He was charged and convicted with failing to zigzag to avoid the torpedoes that sank the ship. The Navy even flew in the Japanese submarine commander, Mochitsura Hashimoto, to testify against Charles.

Captain Charles B. McVay III

Crew-members felt that their Captain was being railroaded, in fact Mochitsura Hashimoto himself even said that zigzagging would’t have stopped him from sinking the USS Indianapolis. There’s actually quite a few controversies worth looking into about the whole trial. Still, Charles McVay was found guilty of hazarding his vessel and he never sailed the seas again. Instead, on the 6th of November, 1968, he killed himself with his own service pistol. Years later in 2000, Captain Charles B. McVay III was exonerated for the loss of the USS Indianapolis… all thanks to a twelve year old Floridian schoolboy.

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“I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”

– Quint

Back to the Future

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Little Bit of History: Produced by Steven Spielberg written by Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis and directed by Robert Zemeckis. Back to the Future is a time traveling adventure that mixes action/comedy and even romance into one great package. Released on July 3rd 1985.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: Marty McFly is accidentally sent to 1955 via his friend, Doc Brown’s time machine. While in 1955 Marty inadvertently prevents his own mother and father form ever meeting, putting his own existence into jeopardy. Marty then spends a week in 1955 trying to get his mother and father back together so he can exist in the future.

Little Bit of Character: Along with Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox there is also Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson in the roles of Marty’s Father (George) and Mother (Lorraine) as well as all round bad guy Biff Tannen played by Thomas F. Wilson.

Little Bit of Influence: The film went on to spawn 2 sequels, various video games, an animated TV show and even it’s own motion based ride at Universal Theme Parks (since sadly replaced). Back to the Future has also been copied and parodied countless times over the years.

Little Bit of Memories: The first time I ever saw this was one Christmas on TV in the 80’s before the release of the first sequel. I recall being blown away by the film, the plot was amazing, the characters were lively and of course there was that kick-ass car.

Little Bit of Watchability: Still one of the best…if not THE best time travel film made. Very much still watchable today. While it does have a bit of that 80’s cheese factor to it, at the same time it’s almost timeless and seems appropriate no matter which decade you watch it in.

Doc

Dr. Emmett Brown:Things have certainly changed around here. I remember when this was all farmland as far the eye could see. Old man Peabody owned all of this. He had this crazy idea about breeding pine trees.

Back to the Future turned 30 years old today. Please also check out my insight into some the of behind the scenes trivia of the film too.

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It’s been 30 years? Great Scott!

July 3rd 1985 saw the release of one of the very best time travel movies, Back to the Future.

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So It’s time for a Back to the Future 30th birthday celebration.
Join me on an adventure through time as I look back on Back to the Future, it’s legacy and also look at a few behind the scenes tit-bits.

If my calculations are correct, when I start typing 88 words a minute…you’re gonna see some serious shit.

BttF is a masterful mix of action/sci-fi/comedy and even a love story.

The idea for the film came about when writer, Bob Gale was looking through his parent’s high school yearbook and he wondered whether he would have gotten on with his father when he was a teenager.
Bob Gale took the idea to various people but no one wanted to make the film. So Bob went to his old friend Robert Zemeckis to help flesh out the story.
Robert Zemeckis not only took on the role as co-writer but also got on board as director too.

The two Bobs took the more in depth concept to various movie studios including Disney who turned it down as they felt some of the content was not suitable and too hard for a Disney film…I guess Disney were not too keen on the incest subplot between Marty and his mother or Biff trying to rape Lorraine in a car.
Disney were not the only studio to turn the project down, pretty much every major studio turned it down too.

It was only when Steven Spielberg showed an interest in producing the film that the studios started to take notice. The final draft of Back to the Future was finished in 1981, but it took 4 years before the film was finally made by Universal Studios.

Of course everyone knows and loves Michael J Fox as Marty McFly, but Michael was not the original Marty.

Even though Michael was the first actor approached and offered the now iconic role, at the time he was busy filming the movie Teenwolf and his TV show Family Ties. In fact it was while shooting Teenwolf that Michael J Fox learned of Back to the Future as some scenes in Teenwolf took place on the very same filming locations that Back to the Future would also be filmed in and Michael heard of this up and coming new film when Robert Zemeckis was location scouting.

Though Michael J Fox really wanted the job and Zemeckis really wanted him onboard too, he just could not commit as he was too busy. With the start of filming date fast approaching, the producers could not wait for Michael to become available and so Eric Stolz was hired to play Marty McFly instead.

Yes, Eric Stolz was Marty McFly before Michael J Fox was.

Stolz

Now this is not uncommon in films for an actor to be replaced at a later date. But what is unusual is to shoot most of a movie with one actor to then replace them later at great expense. In fact it was said by Steven Spielberg that firing Eric and hiring Michael cost over $3 million.

Well that is what happened with Back to the Future. Eric Stolz filmed pretty much the entire film working alongside all the other actors. Some of this Eric Stolz footage has been released on various versions of BttF on DVD and Bluray and you can find many stills from the Eric Stolz Back to the Future online, with Eric alongside all the other main cast members in all the scenes you remember…but all the footage filmed has never been seen publicly.

It’s even been noted that some of the Eric Stolz footage is still in the final film. Some of the longer shots or seeing Marty from over the shoulder so you can’t clearly see the actor, etc. These scenes and shots have been said to contain Eric playing Marty as to avoid costly re-shooting.
Take a closer look next time you watch the film. Is that Micheal or Eric?

So why make pretty much an entire film with one actor only to replace him later at great expense?
Well it’s been strongly suggested this was done to waste time until Michael J Fox had more free time to take on the role.

It has been said that Eric Stolz was hired by director Robert Zemeckis purely as he knew when the producers saw the footage that they would not be happy and demand the role of Marty McFly be recast with the original choice of Michael J Fox instead.

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Whatever the truth behind the firing of Eric Stolz was, the rest, as they say, is history…

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The role of the other main character, “Doc” Emmett Brown was played to perfection by Christopher Lloyd who said he drew inspiration from Albert Einstein and conductor Leopold Stokowski to play the character.
But though Lloyd made the role his own, he was not the first choice, originally the role was offered to John Lithgow. However, John Lithgow was busy on other projects and could not commit.
So Christopher Lloyd was offered the role instead…yet he originally turned it down. It was only when he read the script along with his wife who then convinced him to take on the role that Lloyd signed up.

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Of course you can’t have a hero without a villain. Enter bully boy and all round asshole Biff Tannen. Biff was played brilliantly by Thomas F. Wilson. But even here, Wilson was not the first choice.

In fact the first choice was J.J. Cohen, but when Eric Stolz was still playing Marty, the producers felt J.J was not imposing enough to bully Eric. So they gave the role to Thomas F. Wilson instead and J.J. Cohen was recast as one of Biff’s chorts.
By the time Michael J Fox was finally in place as Marty, the producers just felt Thomas F. Wilson owned the role and was perfect and so allowed him to keep the Biff role.

Now you can’t talk about Back to the Future without mentioning its other main star…the time machine itself…

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Yes that is a picture of a fridge, but why?
Well because that was the original time machine.
Yes, Robert Zemeckis wanted the time machine to be a fridge, but later changed his mind after worrying that kids might try to copy the film and start climbing into fridges.
So that idea was scrapped and Zemeckis started to think of the need to make the machine more mobile.

Delorean

Robert Zemeckis settled on the DeLorean DMC-12 as he wanted something that would look futuristic from the 1955 viewpoint. This film helped make the DeLorean immortal and hugely popular.

Despite early production problems, one including a Universal Studios executive, Sidney Sheinberg, not liking the title of Back to the Future. As Sidney was convinced that no film with the word “future” in its title would ever be successful. He demanded the title be changed to “Spaceman from Pluto” instead.

Steven Spielberg eventually dictated a memo to Sheinberg, where Spielberg convinced Sheinberg he thought his title was just a joke and he found it really funny, and so embarrassed Sidney Sheinberg into dropping the whole idea.

So you can thank Steven Spielberg for you not having to sit through a film called “Spaceman from Pluto”.

Overall, the filming and post production of Back to the Future went without a hitch and the film was finally relased on July 3rd.

But Universal really had very little faith in the film. Micheal J Fox was away in London filming an episode of Family Ties at the time of Back to the Future’s release and Universal thought that without Fox helping to promote the film that the film would be a flop.

Back to the Future was a huge success and spent 11 weeks at the number 1 box office. Taking in a worldwide total of $383.87 million upon initial release, Back to the Future was the top grossing film of 1985.

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The film even won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing. The two Bobs (Gale & Zemeckis) were nominated for Best Original Screenplay, “The Power of Love” was nominated for Best Original Song, and the film was also nominated for Best Sound Mixing.

The success of Back to the Future led to (unplanned) sequels. Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III which were shot back to back and then relased in 1989 and 1990 respectively.
There have been Back to the Future games, merchandise, a theme park attraction and endless references and parodies, even today.

This is just such an amazing film, brilliant story, great and engaging characters. The film is “timeless”.
Everyone should see this flick at least once and bask in its glory as one of the very best films of the 1980s.

Outtatime

George McFly:Lou, give me a milk…chocolate.

Also, check out my quick Back to the Future overview.

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40 years of Jaws and the birth of the “summer blockbuster”.

As I write this article, Jurassic World is taking the cinema by storm. Becoming the first film to take over £322m at the global box office on its opening weekend.

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It’s looking very much as if Jurassic World is going to be the big “summer blockbuster” of 2015.

If you wanted to, you could trace back 4 decades of the “summer blockbusters” with films like; Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Die Hard (1988), Batman (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Jurassic Park (1993), Independence Day (1996) and many, many more films.
You can find at least 1 film for each year over the last 40 years that is considered a “summer blockbuster”.

The summer period has become the biggest and best time to release a new film and the “summer blockbuster” has become a staple of cinema for 40 years now.
However, pre-1975. The idea of going to the cinema during the summer was just not thought of. Who wants to sit in a stuffy and sweltering cinema when the sun is shining and the weather is hot outside?
Back then, summer was when film studios would release the films they didn’t think would do very well at the box office. However, one film released 40 years ago today changed all of that and shaped modern cinema as we now know it…

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Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. 20th June 1975 saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s seminal thriller/horror flick, Jaws. Making today (20/06/15) 40 years since Jaws first hit cinema screens.

So I’m going to take a look at the film that started it all as well as a quick overview of Jaws – NES and Jaws Unleashed – PS2 games.
But instead of just doing a “Jaws is awesome” kind of article. I thought I’d take a look behind the scenes instead and see how and why this now iconic and important piece of cinema almost never made it to the big screen at all.

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Steven Spielberg was only 26 when he started work on Jaws and he was fairly inexperienced overall. With only one other cinematic film to his name; The Sugarland Express (1974), he had also directed a handful of TV movies with; Savage (1973), Something Evil (1972) and Duel (1971).
Steven had also directed episodes of TV shows like Columbo. He had wrote and directed a few independent short films very early on with; Amblin’ (1968) being the film that would also give him his production company name; Amblin Entertainment, founded in 1981.

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But Spielberg was not the original director of Jaws. Director Dick Richards (Farewell, My Lovely, Death Valley) was first considered. But Dick kept calling the shark a whale. Producers were not impressed with his lack of commitment and felt he never took the project seriously so Dick was fired and Steven Spielberg hired in his place.

Steven was aware of his own inexperience and even pulled out of the project at one point. But he was convinced to stay on and even decided to compare making Jaws to his TV movie; Duel.

Steven Spielberg: “Wow, this is like a movie I just made about a truck and a driver (Duel). Jaws and Duel both have four letters, they’re both about a leviathan going after man.

Yes, Steven Spielberg really took on the impossible task of making Jaws as the film had a four letter title like one of his previous films.

Jaws production met with many, many, many problems and almost never got made.

Richard Dreyfuss:We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark.

All true. Jaws began filming even before they had a finished script, without a finalized cast or even a working shark.

Hooper

Richard Dreyfuss who eventually went on to be cast as Hooper, the young and enthusiastic marine biologist turned the role down twice before accepting the role.

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The rough, salty-seadog character of Quint was offered to Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden. Both of which turned the role down, but as production began and no Quint in place. Spielberg offered the role to Robert Shaw and Quint finally had an actor. But the problems did not end with the casting of Shaw, in fact they had only just begun as Shaw had a big drinking problem at the time. According to Jaws actor Carl Gottlieb, Shaw would drink a lot between takes.
Roy Scheider (on Robert Shaw):A perfect gentleman whenever he was sober. All he needed was one drink and then he turned into a competitive son-of-a-bitch.
This competitiveness lead to an infamous feud between Shaw and Dreyfuss who never got on at all…and I’m sure the drinking didn’t help. Some of that tension and anger between the two can even be seen on screen.

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The only one of the three main characters that had an actor before production began was the “fish out of water” (sorry) Brody played by Roy Scheider. That only came about due to a chance meeting between Spielberg and Scheider at a party.

Even the location Jaws was filmed at (Martha’s Vineyard) proved to be problematic as residents did not appreciate the fact a film crew would be around. Filming on water also was a huge obstacle, with logistic nightmares getting cameras, lights and all electrical equipment available for use. Even getting a simple shot of the boat proved near impossible with ever changing weather, losing daylight and residents that were not happy about the filming constantly sailing their boats around in the background.

Then on top of all of those problems, the star of the show, the shark (called Bruce by Spielberg named after his lawyer) just would not work.

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Initially Steven Spielberg wanted to show the shark a lot more. The infamous and tense opening scene from Jaws that was filmed from the perspective of the shark only came about as Bruce would not work. So Spielberg had to abandon his idea of showing the shark to favour the scene we now have. This would also shape the entire film and help create a much more tense atmosphere than Spielberg intended.

Even that classic Jaws theme tune almost never made it. Spielberg hired (now legendary) composer John Williams to come up with the music of Jaws. However, when Williams first played the now iconic tune for Spielberg. Steven said he thought it was a joke and asked for the real music instead. It took a lot of convincing for Spielberg to accept and include the now infamous music.

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These many problems would carry on over the whole 155 day shooting…yes it took 155 days to complete filming on Jaws. However, the schedule was only originally planned for a 52 day shoot. These non-planned 103 extra filming days caused countless problems. Which also included the main thing producers care about, money.
The budget for Jaws was initially £2.6 million. Due to delays, problems with the cast and crew, an expanding shooting schedule and constant repairs of Bruce. That £2.6 million budget grew to over £5.7 million and producers were not happy at all. You do not spend £5.7 million on a film with an inexperienced director that was due to be released during summer which was just not (at the time) big business for films.

Steven Spielberg was even threatened with being fired from the film, several times.
Spielberg was at a dinner party during the filming of Jaws in 1974…

Steven Spielberg:An actress came over to me and said; Everyone is talking about this movie back in Hollywood and they are saying this is the end of your career, they’re saying you are so far over budget and schedule nobody is going to hire you after this.

The young and inexperienced Steven Spielberg was dejected and depressed.

Producer David Brown:Had we read the script twice, in my opinion, we never would have made Jaws.”

Jaws was one of the most troubled productions in film history. The only reason it was finished was due to the fact producers released they were already in too deep and decided to let the film be finished and just hope they can at least make some of their money back.

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Jaws was finally released on 20th June 1975 and it didn’t just make it’s money back…it broke all previous box office records. Jaws grossed over £4.5 million in it’s opening weekend alone and went on to make over £300 million worldwide. All from an inflated £5.7 million budget.

A lot of Jaws success came from some of cinema’s firsts.
Jaws was the first film to have a strong merchandise market. Yes before Star Wars (1977) there was Jaws. With T-shirts, toys, posters, cups and so many more products with the Jaws logo and images being sold.
Jaws was also the first film to have a simultaneous nationwide release. Being shown at over 100’s of screens at the same time all over the country was previously unheard of.

Jaws became the very first “summer blockbuster” and helped cement that young and inexperienced director; Steven Spielberg’s entire career and changed his life forever.
The name Spielberg became a household name and even opened the doors and allowed Steven to make the films he is now famous for. Steven Spielberg also became known for not only creating the “summer blockbuster” but adding to them with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park and many, many other all time classics.

Jaws itself went on to spawn 3 sequels, video games, endless merchandise, a theme park attraction..and even two (yes two) musicals as well as countless parodies.

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From troubled production to helping shape modern cinema today. Also take a look at this; Jaws: The Inside Story – Documentary on Youtube for even more detail on the film that almost never was.
Jaws’ 40 year endurance is a true test of its quality and commitment.

Happy 40th Birthday Bruce.

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This ends my look back on the film Jaws and how it created the “summer blockbuster” sub-genre in cinema.
Please also check out my overview for Jaws – NES and Jaws Unleashed – PS2.

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