Behind the Scenes of a Classic: Jaws
Without a doubt one of Steven Spielberg’s most notorious movies, but mostly the one that made him famous, Jaws (1975) has actually been far from easy to produce…
At the time just 28, Spielberg only had one theatrical film under his belt (The Sugarland Express) and already faced a mountain of challenges, including shooting mostly at sea, an expensive mechanical shark that didn’t work, a tight budget and schedule, and many’s belief that his career was finished.
“We would shoot five scenes in a good day, three in an average day, and none in a bad day.” – Steven Spielberg
But it’s not for nothing that the director is today a Hollywood legend. While many problems stood in his way, the young director used them to his advantage by taking a leaf out of Alfred Hitchcock’s book when he made the decision to show the shark as little as possible and use a musical theme to announce its presence, instead.
The result turned out to have a much greater impact than expected. The new perspective increased the tension and created more fear in the audience. Eventually, what started as a practical solution became the foundation of Jaws‘ international success at the box office and among critics.
A true, incredible success story!
Named Bruce by members of the crew in reference to Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Raynor, ‘Jaws’ mechanical shark required 14 operators to control its moving parts.
On its first test run, Bruce immediately sank, forcing divers to recover it. The machine had numerous defects, which often lead to big delays. Spielberg quickly renamed it ‘The Great White Turd’.
Filming in the sea was pretty new at the time, which meant the movie’s team had to create new aquatic shooting equipment and constantly wear diving outfits.
Decades later, Steven Spielberg would describe his experience of directing ‘Jaws’ as traumatizing.
Susan Backlinie, who played the first victim of the movie, was outfitted with cables that could then be pulled by members of the crew in order to simulate a violent attack.
Want to learn more about the making of Jaws? Watch the compelling 49-minute video, featuring Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, and Roy Scheider, below: