‘Jaws’: The Groundbreaking Summer Blockbuster that Changed Hollywood, and Our Summer Vacations, Forever


By Sven Mikulec

It seems unbelievable, but it’s been 46 years since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws premiered in cinemas across the United States. Almost half a century since the audience got to see the film that would change not only the way they perceive swimming in the ocean, but that would change the film industry as we knew it. When discussing Jaws, it’s important to note that there are three distinct levels needed to at least adequately analyze Spielberg’s, excuse us for the childish pun, jaw-dropping thriller. Firstly, the elementary approach: what kind of a film is this? A fast-paced, dynamic, exciting movie which expertly escapes any definite genre-labeling. A thriller, obviously; a horror, a unique form of a hybrid between a monster movie and a proto-slasher, maybe even an action-packed film with a political commentary and more depths than it’s obvious at the first glance. First and foremost, it’s a film that could be called a masterfully executed piece of commercial entertainment, a film we would probably go back to every season even if we weren’t aware of its overall significance for the film industry. But it’s difficult to talk about Jaws without acknowledging the impact it had on the world, and the consequences we still feel today. The second step in the analysis of Spielberg’s blockbuster is to take account of its influence on the society and the environment: the same summer it came out, the United States recorded a visible decrease in the number of people enjoying themselves on American beaches, while at the same time the number of phone calls to the police regarding possible seeing of sharks rose dramatically. Most importantly for the environment, Jaws displayed a motivational power similar to Top Gun eleven years later: what the Tom Cruise-based adrenaline-pumping flick did for military recruiting, Jaws accomplished quite impressively for shark-hunting. In 2010, for instance, an article noted that one-third of the world’s sharks, skates and rays were faced with extinction; conservation groups eagerly name Jaws as the main reason why their task of convincing people sharks need protection is so difficult, and even the author of the book Jaws was based on and one of the film’s screenwriters Peter Benchley later stated he wouldn’t have written the novel had he been educated on what sharks were really like.

The third aspect of the film’s importance stems from Jaws’s virtually undebatable impact on the American film industry. It’s been universally acknowledged that this particular film heralded the new era of blockbuster filmmaking. Not only was it the first film to ever reach the golden 100-million-dollar number at the American box office, but the very way it achieved such a financially impressive result is what redefined Hollywood’s practices. First of all, before Jaws, the only films presented to the public during the summer were usually those of lesser quality, as the industry gathered that only teenagers go to cinemas during summer breaks: winter was perceived as the best time to put out films that were really expected to make money. Moreover, most hot studio projects in those days enjoyed limited releases, with exclusive premieres in a couple of cinemas in Los Angeles and New York. The Godfather, for instance, spent its first week in only five theaters, before a large expansion later. Jaws opened simultaneously in no less than 409 American theaters, basically burying the practice of controlled, step-by-step releases the studios favored up to that point. In addition to that, the film premiered only after an expensive, elaborate and intensive marketing campaign which would later become the ABCs for expected blockbusters. On its 9-million-dollar budget, Jaws went on to gather as much as 470 million dollars in cinemas across the world. The film, therefore, practically singlehandedly established summer as the best season for the release of projects with the biggest box-office potential, bringing with it a second crucial change within the industry: auteur films were suddenly in a less desirable position when compared to big-budget movies, and studios gradually took control from the hands of filmmakers, ending the period usually classified as the New Hollywood era of filmmaking. Spielberg’s success, in other words, instigated a shift of power that can be still felt in American film industry.

Universal Pictures’ producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown stumbled upon Peter Benchley’s novel ‘Jaws’ by accident even before the book was published; they read the novel immediately and enthusiastically proclaimed it was the most exciting thing they’d ever read. In 1973 they bought the rights for around $175,000 and soon started preparing the field for the project’s realization. While they were considering John Sturges and Dick Richards for the director’s chair, 26-year-old Steven Spielberg, who had directed Zanuck and Brown’s The Sugarland Express, saw Benchley’s novel in his producers’ office and asked to read it. Noticing certain thematic parallels with his highly praised TV debut film Duel—the fact the story was about ordinary people battling dangerous, unreasonable predators—Spielberg expressed his desire to direct the film. His wish came true as Zanuck and Brown convinced the studio that Spielberg’s relative inexperience might bring the freshness such an unprecedented project just needed. It’s interesting to note that both the producers and the director felt very concerned about the film’s potential for success at some point: Zanuck and Brown said they wouldn’t have purchased the rights had they read the book twice, because they failed to see how difficult it would be to shoot a film of this type. Spielberg, on the other hand, also had his doubts, but the producers managed to convince him that Jaws would open all the doors he needed to pursue making exactly the type of films he wanted to make. Benchley, the author of the book, was also hired as the screenwriter, but when his three drafts proved unsatisfactory, Spielberg took it upon himself to write the script. After two weeks of writing his own version, the filmmaker realized he needed help, which is why playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner Howard Sackler was hired to reshape the script. As Spielberg later revealed, the esteemed filmmaker John Milius also worked on the screenplay, as well as the whole crew, led by one of the main actors, Robert Shaw, who himself had previously written a play called The Man in the Glass Booth.

The three main roles ultimately went to Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. All talented and accomplished actors but not at all Hollywood superstars, they fit in well with Spielberg’s vision: he didn’t want to cast superstars because the film simply wouldn’t function as effectively as it does if the audience wasn’t convinced that such events unfolding on screen could easily happen to them as well, which is a feat that could be jeopardized if the leading men were of planetary fame. The film was shot by Bill Butler, the cinematographer who worked on The Godfather and The Conversation, and it should be noted that the great Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, The Last Detail, Raging Bull) worked as a camera operator during production. The music was scored by John Williams, the composer with whom Spielberg established a long-lasting partnership on the first film they made together, The Sugarland Express. Williams would later work with Spielberg on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T., establishing himself as the leading American composer for decades to come. Jaws was also the last film the great editor Verna Fields ever edited. The woman who worked on such classics as What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon and American Graffiti would get her only Academy Award for Jaws, before passing away six years later. It was one of three Oscars Jaws got, along with Best Sound and Best Music, with an additional nomination in the Best Picture category.

The film’s expected budget was somewhere around three million dollars, but it ended up on no less than nine. The shooting was supposed to last 55 days, but this stretched for two additional months, raising both the budget and the pressure for Spielberg to deliver what the studio expected from him. The mechanical sharks, created under the supervision of experienced special effects master Robert A. Mattey (who created the giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea two decades earlier), broke down frequently, causing Spielberg to regret his naïve decision to shoot the film outside the studio, in Martha’s Vineyard in New England. Funnily enough, the movie that decimated the number of swimmers across the American coast actually did wonders for the tourism of this little town that opened its welcoming arms to Spielberg and his crew. The shooting might have been a nightmare, but the trouble paid off generously in the end, as Spielberg succeeded in creating a classic that changed the rules of the game and is still viewed as a master class in filmmaking that thousands of film students can look up to for inspiration and guidance. After gaining the confidence of Universal’s studio heads with Duel and The Sugarland Express, Spielberg simply needed a bigger boat, and Jaws’ Orca proved ideal for his sail to the very top.

A monumentally important screenplay. Screenwriter must-read: Peter Benchley & Carl Gottlieb’s screenplay for Jaws [PDF]. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers. Absolutely our highest recommendation.


The following is an excerpt from Ain’t It Cool News, written by Quint, ‘Steven Spielberg and Quint have an epic chat all about Jaws as it approaches its 36th Anniversary!’

Obviously the movie means a lot to me and going through that new making of book, Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard, it really did strike me just how important it was that you made the personality Amity that of Martha’s Vineyard. It makes Amity feel like a real town. So, I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about how you pulled so many locals into the movie and how much of that was a creative choice and how much of that was political to help you ease the troubled waters of filming on location.
Well, I didn’t know anything about politics in those days. I was just trying to find as much naturalism to play against the basic size of the shark. I didn’t want this film to be a mythological tale and if everybody played as big as the shark weighed and measured nobody would have believed the shark was real if the people hadn’t been as real. So, I looked to the community of Martha’s Vineyard, and also off into the Boston area, to find local people that would make the audience feel that the story was truly happening not in Hollywood, but on a fictitious island called Amity.

That was also your reasoning for wanting to actually shoot on the ocean as well, right?
Right, exactly, because if I made the movie in a tank it would have had that same mythological feel that the Spencer Tracy film, The Old Man and the Sea, has.

Or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. When you see Kirk Douglas fighting a giant squid, as awesome as that is, you know they shot that on a backlot somewhere.
Yeah, exactly. I was naïve about the ocean, basically. I was pretty naïve about mother nature and the hubris of a filmmaker who thinks he can conquer the elements was foolhardy, but I was too young to know I was being foolhardy when I demanded that we shoot the film in the Atlantic Ocean and not in a North Hollywood tank. But had I to do it all over again I would have gone back to the sea because it was the only way for the audience to feel that these three men were cast adrift with a great white shark hunting them.


I think the real key to the fear that you put into the world populace, the fear of swimming, is the fact that it’s so obviously not just in a pool somewhere. Those creatures actually live and hunt in those waters and almost everybody has been swimming in the ocean, so there’s an easy access to that base fear.
Right, right.

Even if the average filmgoer doesn’t know how movies are made, there’s something in their brain that clicks, that registers when something is real and sees the difference.
That’s so true.

I know it was a headache, but I would hope looking back on it now you could say all the aggravation and stress was worth it.
It was worth it because, for number one, Close Encounters, which was a film I had written and a film nobody seemed to want to make, everybody seemed to want it right after Jaws was a hit. So, the first thing Jaws did for me was it allowed a studio, namely Columbia, to greenlight Close Encounters. For number two, it gave me final cut for the rest of my career. But what I really owe to Jaws was creating in me a great deal of humility, about tempering my imagination with just sort of the facts of life. That movie was more than just a filmmaking and eventually a filmgoers experience, that movie was all about human relationships both in front of and behind the scenes because people started to lose their noodles as we spent weeks and then many months on Martha’s Vineyard and then, later, in the Pacific Ocean around Catalina. It took its toll. It feels like half my work was talking people off the ledge, when cast and crew had no idea when we’d ever leave Martha’s Vineyard, when people could return to their wives and families and real lives. They kept turning to me saying, “When are you going to finish the movie?”

I kept saying, “Ask Mother Nature! I don’t know! Ask the tides!” What was going down was not human error, it was just the conditions at sea that made it untenable to really be doing what we were somehow doing. Everything on land went normal! Everything I shot on any form of land went like a normal movie. I actually was on schedule for the first part of the picture. I mistakenly blew all my cover; the scenes I could have held back in case there was a mechanical problem with the shark, in case there was a bad day at sea and we couldn’t shoot because of the height of the waves or the strength of the wind. I foolishly didn’t have enough cover to be able to go back to the shore to keep shooting the shore portions of Jaws and that was completely my fault and no one else’s. So, when we were shut out many days because of mechanical problems and weather problems, all we could do was wait and bounce up and down on the waves and watch each other vomiting over the side.


Correct me if I’m wrong here, but you also used that time to come up with some creative workarounds and to flesh out the script, right.
Yeah, it’s true. The shark not working was a godsend. It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen in the sense that Ray Harryhausen in his day could do anything he wanted because he had control of his art. When I didn’t have control of my shark it made me kind of rewrite the whole script without the shark. Therefore, in many people’s opinions the film was more effective than the way the script actually offered up the shark in at least a dozen more scenes that today is history.

Losing that creative thinking is something that worries me today when I see so many filmmakers using CG as a crutch. I worry that we lose some of give and take that often times forces creativity. I don’t know if you think about that at all now…
I think that CG is a tool that often becomes a weapon of self-destruction. I certainly have done my share of CG since I was at the forefront of the revolution as a producer of Young Sherlock Holmes, that had the first CG shot ever, and then Jurassic Park that the first CG characters ever. Jim Cameron in-between did brilliant CG work on The Abyss and then T2… I’ve actually suffered from the wealth of riches that CG can give a filmmaker to almost over use the technology to get everything out of our brains and on to the screen when sometimes what’s fun is being denied your best ideas and then you’ve got to fall back on a compromise, which often turns out to be an even better idea. I fall victim to that, too.

I have to say that to this day, for whatever reason… perhaps the combination of the digital effects and Stan Winston’s dinosaurs, but when I watch Jurassic Park I don’t see the CG. That’s a testament to Dennis Muren, to Phil Tippett and to Stan Winston because the blend between… I mean, 65% of the first Jurassic Park is Stan Winston. I believe there’s only between 58 and 60 digital shots in the whole movie. That’s it. The sequel, that I directed, there were four times more digital shots than that. In the first film it was actually Stan Winston actually working together with Dennis Muren putting their heads together to try to figure out how to make these blends from mechanical full-sized puppeteering to the digital wider shots.


But let’s go back to Jaws. We have to talk about the casting of your leads. You must have sweated that a little bit because if the chemistry between your Quint, Brody and Hooper was flat then the whole second half of your movie doesn’t work.
That’s true. Casting sometimes is fate and destiny more than skill and talent, from a director’s point of view. First I went to Lee Marvin and he said no. Then I went to Sterling Hayden and he said no. Then finally David Brown, who had just worked with Robert Shaw on The Sting, and said “What about Robert Shaw?” I said, “David, you’re a genius!” And Robert said yes. That was a simple story, although it took six months to cast Quint. And I went to several actors before Roy Scheider. They didn’t turn me down, I just had decided they were not right for the part. I tested dozens of possible Brodys. I don’t want to mention any names because many of them are still with us. But I was at a party at Andre Eastman’s house and I met Roy Scheider for the first time. He walked over to me and I was literally sitting on a couch with a Coca-Cola in my hand fretting over Jaws, that I wasn’t able to get this shark movie cast, and Roy sat down and introduced himself.

Of course, I had loved him so much in The French Connection and then in The Seven Ups. Roy actually said to me, “You have such a glum look on your face. What’s the matter?” I said, “Aw, I’m having trouble casting my picture.” He actually said, “Who have you gone out to?” I named a few names and looked at me and said, “What about me?!?” He actually said, “What about ME?!?” in only the way Roy could do that, with his voice kind of cracking the way it does when he hits that high note. I looked at him and said, “You’re right! What about you? Will you make my movie?” Without even asking for a script he said, “Of course! If you want me, I’ll do it!” And we actually agreed at a party that he would play Brody… that night… at Andre Eastman’s house. And then he read the script and loved it, which was good because he could have read the script and thrown it back in my face. But he loved it. And Richard Dreyfuss was my first choice. Richard Dreyfuss and Lorraine Gary were both my first choices and they said yes when I asked, so that was all good.

What’s great about the three leads of Jaws… it’s such a perfect product of its time. Those were guys who were both leading men and character actors. They still exist today, but it’s much rarer to find that combination. It was much more common to see character actors getting to top the bill in the ‘70s and, again, with those guys in the lead the movie automatically has kind of reality, so you buy the shark. That’s something I’ve noticed you’ve done on a lot of your movies, you cast really interesting people in your lead roles.
Well, people who are at least touchstones to the human race, that anybody can identify with and say, “That could be me.” That’s all I look for in a movie that I go to see as an audience. Is there any character in the film that I can identify with; that I can experience these events through their eyes. That’s all I’m looking (for), somebody I can believe in. Harrison Ford, who is iconic now, was so full of vulnerabilities in both Star Wars as Han Solo as well as then casting him as Indiana Jones, even though he was a big hero with a whip and a resolve to achieve all of us could identify with him. He wasn’t so out of reach that nobody could believe they never could become him.


You also beat the shit out of him in that first movie! (laughs)
Yeah, exactly! That also helps the audience say that within some of the campiness of some of these set pieces there’s a great deal of character reality going on in the way he’s being batted around by the bad guys!

I’ve read that this is one of your favorite scenes in Jaws… The Indianapolis Speech in Jaws floors me every single time I watch the movie. If I even hear Robert Shaw start that speech I’m zoned in and nothing else exists in the universe, you know? So, do you remember shooting that scene? What was the vibe on the set? Was it weighty?
We shot it twice. The first time we attempted to shoot it Robert came over to me and said, “You know, Steven, all three of these characters have been drinking and I think I could do a much better job in this speech if you let me actually have a few drinks before I do the speech.” And I unwisely gave him permission. He went into the Whitefoot, which was a big sort of support boat that we always took our lunch breaks on and all the bathrooms were on that boat, it was a big tug boat, and he went into the hold with my script girl Charlsie Bryant and I guess he had more than a few drinks because two crew members actually had to carry him onto the Orca and help him into his chair.

I had two cameras on the scene and we never got through the scene, he was just too far gone. So, I wrapped the company at about 11 o’clock in the morning and Robert was taken back to his house on Martha’s Vineyard. At about 2 o’clock in the morning my phone rings and it’s Robert. He had a complete blackout and had no memory of what had gone down that day. He said, “Steven, tell me I didn’t embarrass you.” He was very sweet, but he was panic-stricken. He said, “Steven, please tell me I didn’t embarrass you. What happened? Are you going to give me a chance to do it again?” I said, “Yes, the second you’re ready we’ll do it again.” The next morning he came to the set, he was ready at 7:30 out of make-up and it was like watching Olivier on stage. We did it in probably four takes.


It’s an electrifying moment. And one thing that I notice, if I’m ever able to break my attention away from Shaw himself, is just how spellbound Dreyfuss looks in that scene. That’s not acting. I can clearly tell that he’s enraptured by the performance he’s watching, just as much as I am.
I think we were all watching a great performance and the actors on camera were watching a great performance; Roy and Richard. Richard was in all the shots because Roy was in a cutaway in a separate part of the cabin of the boat, but obviously on Richard’s face… you can see Matt Hooper in character, but you can also see Richard Dreyfuss in complete awe and admiration of this great actor.

It’s one of my favorite scenes in the history of cinema.
I owe three people a lot for this speech. You’ve heard all this, but you’ve probably never heard it from me. There’s a lot of apocryphal reporting about who did what on Jaws and I’ve heard it for the last three decades, but the fact is the speech was conceived by Howard Sackler, who was an uncredited writer, didn’t want a credit and didn’t arbitrate for one, but he’s the guy that broke the back of the script before we ever got to Martha’s Vineyard to shoot the movie. I hired later Carl Gottlieb to come onto the island, who was a friend of mine, to punch up the script, but Howard conceived of the Indianapolis speech. I had never heard of the Indianapolis before Howard, who wrote the script at the Bel Air Hotel and I was with him a couple times a week reading pages and discussing them. Howard one day said, “Quint needs some motivation to show all of us what made him the way he is and I think it’s this Indianapolis incident.” I said, “Howard, what’s that?”

And he explained the whole incident of the Indianapolis and the Atomic Bomb being delivered and on its way back it was sunk by a submarine and sharks surrounded the helpless sailors who had been cast adrift and it was just a horrendous piece of World War II history. Howard didn’t write a long speech, he probably wrote about three-quarters of a page. But then, when I showed the script to my friend John Milius, John said “Can I take a crack at this speech?” and John wrote a 10 page monologue, that was absolutely brilliant, but out-sized for the Jaws I was making! (laughs) But it was brilliant and then Robert Shaw took the speech and Robert did the cut down. Robert himself was a fine writer, who had written the play The Man in the Glass Booth. Robert took a crack at the speech and he brought it down to five pages. So, that was sort of the evolution just of that speech.


I’d love to read the 10 page Milius version.
I don’t think it exists. I know I don’t have it. I’ve been asked for it, everybody has been wanting to see it and John doesn’t have it because in those days we didn’t have computers, we didn’t have hard drives, it was just on pieces of paper! I remember just saying, “Hey, this is a movie! Somebody someday should do a movie just about the Indianapolis.” But the other lucky thing about the shark not working was that we all did have a chance to hone the script and do improvisations and then Carl Gottlieb took the improvisations that I tape recorded and transcribed them, then he structured scenes and then we’d all collaborate with Carl on cutting the scenes down, making them short enough to still put into the movie and let the movie have its own narrative pace. But Carl made great contributions to the movie. I brought him to Martha’s Vineyard to do comedy punch-up work because he’s a very funny guy, a very funny writer, and he wound up really staying there a long, long time helping all of us with all of the scenes, so Carl did deserve his credit and did great work on Jaws. I’m very beholden to Carl for sticking it out as long as he did with us because that was a lonely island for everybody making that movie over many months.

Your filmmaking style at that time is very recognizable. It seemed with both Duel and Jaws you’re developing a very iconic style that we started talking about at the beginning of the interview. You used a lot of split-diopter shots, had a lot of overlapping dialogue… it was a very naturalistic style. What is it that drew you to that kind of technique?
That technique for me was always just the way I always observed people having conversations in daily life. I always wondered why movies couldn’t have more naturalism in them; why scenes couldn’t be hybrid scenes between the documentary and the drama. Robert Altman, of course, made it a fine art: background conversations and foreground conversations and even some midground conversations. Altman probably reached his nexus with that with Nashville, which I think is the best movie Altman made. And I was very influenced, I think, by Altman’s MASH. There’s naturalism in that and yet it’s such a bizarre comedy at the same time. It was realistic because it was about the Korean War, but then it was zany and madcap and he was able to temper all that in a kind of pseudo-documentary style. I did not want to do a pseudo-documentary style for Jaws ‘cause I wanted Jaws to be a big, slick commercial looking movie, but I needed something to offset the surreality of the shark. The more natural I could make the performances in the foreground I thought the more people would swallow the weight and size of that great white.

Here’s another thing, though. When you…
Oh, and by the way… Let me say one more thing, Quint.

Sure, sure.
The more fake the shark looked in the water, at least to the crew watching it being hauled behind a speedboat, the more my anxiety told me to heighten the naturalism of the performances.


Here’s the thing… what makes horror movies scary… Jaws is always described as a horror movie, but I see it as more of a men on a mission/adventure story…
I agree with you.

Good, I’m not the only one! But what makes tension work, be it in a thriller or horror film, is when you care for the people in jeopardy. If you’re scared of losing somebody you like then the filmmaker has you. I mean, Quint’s death is so inevitable from the very beginning, the whole Ahab parallel of one’s obsession getting the best of him, but you don’t want him to go. You’re scared when Hooper goes in the water. Hell, you’re scared when Alex Kintner goes into the water and we’ve spent all of 30 seconds with him.
Right, right.

That naturalistic approach and your casting absolutely worked. You relate to the people in danger. It’s not just sexy supermodels in bikinis wading into the surf, it’s a kid that could be your nephew.
And yet Quint, who is a bigger than life character required a bigger than life death scene, so I was able to mythologize a character like Quint where that death would have been an earned one, you know what I’m saying?

Absolutely. I never doubted it once and it really freaked me out as a kid. It was two things: when he spits up that bright red blood and when we next see the shark he has bits of Quint hanging off his teeth.
Exactly! Exactly because sharks don’t have toothpicks! There was a lot of raw chicken that contributed to that sequence.


The “forward tracking, zoom out” shot used when Brody realizes Alex Kintner has been eaten has been called “the Jaws shot” by some video teachers who instruct students on using this move. However, this shot is merely a reverse of the “forward zoom and reverse tracking” (also known as the Trombone Shot) shot invented by Irmin Roberts for the disorienting height shots in Vertigo (1958). A similar shot appears to have been used for the dream sequences in Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966), in which Montag runs down an apparently endless corridor, passing doors on both sides but seems to never get closer to the end.


“I have compiled 23 of my favorite Dolly Zoom shots in the video below to help further explore and demonstrate this phenomenon. Directors such as: Hitchcock, Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino, Truffaut, Mendes, Melville, Raimi and others have used this effect to its fullest potential. I find it amazing that such an obvious visual manipulation becomes virtually unseen when deftly employed in the right moment.” —Vashi Nedomansky, Evolution of the Dolly Zoom


“I was feeling completely confident. I was confident for the first 35 days of shooting because I was on schedule for the first 35 days. It was all the land stuff. So I was completely on schedule and on budget for all of the land stuff. Interior Brody’s house, exterior Brody’s house, interior the city selectman chamber, introducing Quint in town… I mean, everything having to do with land, and even some of the stuff with the shark, even some of the stuff with Chrissie Watkins being killed at the opening of the story—that was all land-based stuff. It wasn’t easy to shoot, but I wasn’t over schedule, over budget, and it was a normal movie. It was only when we went out to sea for our, I guess 25 or 30 days of photography, that everything went pear-shaped.” —Steven Spielberg on how it was almost a different movie


“Well, my first choice for Quint was Lee Marvin. We went to Lee Marvin first, he turned it down. And then my second choice was Sterling Hayden, and he was a fisherman. He said, ‘When I go fishing, I want to go fishing for real. I don’t want to go fishing for a fake shark.’ And so he turned it down. Then David Brown and Dick Zanuck suggested Robert Shaw because they had just made The Sting with him and loved the experience. So I went off and gave myself a quick education, looked at A Man For All Seasons again, and then looked at Battle of the Bulge and a few other Robert Shaw movies. Of course I had seen The Sting the year before, and we offered him the part. My first choice for Matt Hooper was always Richard Dreyfuss. He’s the one person I got.” —Steven Spielberg on how it was almost a different movie



Peter Benchley, author of ‘Jaws,’ in a part of the preview featurette promoting the novel’s 1975 big-screen Spielberg adaptation, which changed so much about Hollywood filmmaking, pretty much creating the summer blockbuster season. The novelist interviews the director as well as producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown.


Steven Spielberg, John Millius & Richard Dreyfuss talk about the evolution of the Indianapolis speech in Jaws.



“After completing Raiding the Lost Ark in 2012, I immediately embarked on a new project, tentatively called Jaws Bites Back. After 16 months of trawling, reading, spooling, skyping, chatting, interviewing, editing and refining, I am pleased to release Inside Jaws, A Filmumentary. For this project I unearthed some unheard interviews with cast members and I conducted some interviews myself. So even you big Jaws fans should find plenty of new things to enjoy!” —Jamie Benning


This production diagram illustrates how complex it was to bring Bruce to life in the Atlantic Ocean.


An original pencil rendering of the iconic Jaws poster image, sketched by the poster artist himself, Roger Kastel.


The illustrated storyboards reproduced from Joe Alves personnal file. Joe Alves has also illustrated the storyboard by hand with an image of a Great White Shark.


One overlooked aspect of Spielberg is that he’s actually a stealth master of the long take. From Duel to Tintin, for forty years, he has sneakily filmed many scenes in a single continuous shot. An excellent video essay by Tony Zhou.



“The photo was not taken on the set of Jaws during its production period, as it is often claimed, but on the movie back lot months after the film was released. I gather this information from the Bryson Photo Facebook page and from the caption accompanying the very same photo in an NPR article about the legacy of ‘Bruce,’ as Spielberg’s shark was called: ‘Ingmar Bergman, the late director, examines one of the three original Bruces. This is the last known published photo of any of the original Bruce; it was taken in 1975, several months after the film’s release.’” —Philippe Theophanidis


Here are some great photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Photographed by Louis Goldman © Zanuck/Brown Productions, Universal Pictures, Cal Acord/Courtesy of Moonrise Media. Please visit the website and support: The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers. Intended for editorial use only. All material for educational and noncommercial purposes only.


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