With its iconic theme song, memorable characters, and of course, its pice de resistance, the great white shark, Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) is considered one of the greatest thriller films of all time. Here are 21 awesome behind-the-scenes facts you probably didn't know about Jaws.
1/21. According to Steven Spielberg, the prop arm looked too fake in the scene where Chrissie's remains are discovered, so instead they buried a female crew member in the sand with only her arm exposed.
2/21. Steven Spielberg's biggest fear other than the performance of the mechanical shark was that the cameras would catch sight of land. The reason Spielberg didn't want land to be seen was because he thought the audience could envision the characters having the option of just running back to shore when in danger. He wanted to isolate the audience as much as the characters.
3/21. To create the sound of a drowning woman during post-production, Susan Backlinie was positioned, head upturned, in front of a microphone, while water from above was poured down into her throat.
4/21. When composer John Williams originally played the score for Steven Spielberg, Spielberg laughed and said, "That's funny, John, really; but what did you really have in mind for the theme of Jaws?" Spielberg later stated that without Williams's score, the movie would only have been half as successful and according to Williams, it jumpstarted his career.
5/21. Roy Scheider stated in an interview that in the scene where Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner) smacks him in the face, she was actually hitting him. Apparently, the actress could not fake a slap and so the 17 takes were some of the "most painful" of his (Scheider's) acting career.
6/21. After the shark was built, it was never tested in the water, and when it was put in the water at Martha's Vineyard, it sank straight to the ocean floor. It took a team of divers to retrieve it.
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7/21. Preview audiences screamed when the head of a shark victim appears in the hole in the bottom of the boat. Director Steven Spielberg re-shot the scene in editor Verna Fields swimming pool because he wanted them to "scream louder".
8/21. An accident during filming caused the Orca to begin sinking. Steven Spielberg began screaming over a bullhorn for the nearby safety boats to rescue the actors. John R. Carter, already up to his knees in water on the sinking Orca, held his Nagra (tape recorder) up over his head and screamed, "F**k the actors, save the sound department!" During the accident, the film camera was submerged, so its film, still submerged in seawater, was flown to a New York film lab where technicians were able to save the film.
9/21. Composer John Williams conducted the orchestra during the 1976 Academy Awards, so when it was announced that he won the Oscar for Best Score, he had to run up to the podium to accept his Oscar and then run back to continue conducting the orchestra.
10/21. Several decades later, Lee Fierro, who plays Mrs. Kintner, walked into a seafood restaurant and noticed that the menu had an "Alex Kintner Sandwich". She commented that she had played his mother so many years ago. The owner of the restaurant ran out to meet her - none other than Jeffrey Voorhees, who had played her son. They hadn't seen each other since the original movie shoot.
11/21. Robert Shaw could not stand Richard Dreyfuss and they argued all the time, which resulted in some good tension between Hooper and Quint.
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12/21. According to writer Carl Gottlieb, the line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" was not scripted but ad-libbed by Roy Scheider.
13/21. Though respected as an actor, Robert Shaw's trouble with alcohol was a frequent source of tension during filming. In later interviews, Roy Scheider described his co-star as "a perfect gentleman whenever he was sober. All he needed was one drink and then he turned into a competitive son-of-a-bitch." According to Carl Gottlieb's book "The Jaws Log," Shaw was having a drink between takes, at which point he announced "I wish I could quit drinking." Much to the surprise and horror of the crew, Richard Dreyfuss simply grabbed Shaw's glass and tossed it into the ocean. When it came time to shoot the infamous USS Indianapolis Scene, Shaw attempted to do the monologue while intoxicated as it called for the men to be drinking late at night. Nothing in the take could be used. A remorseful Shaw called Steven Spielberg late that night and asked if he could have another try. The next day of shooting, Shaw's electrifying performance was done in one take.
14/21. According to The Making of Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws' (1995) documentary, the shooting star that appears during the night scene where Brody loads his revolver was real, not an optical effect.
15/21. With the schedule expanding from 52 to 155 days, Steven Spielberg had to juggle Universal's impossible deadlines, an unfinished script, chaotic conditions off Martha's Vineyard and a belligerent Robert Shaw. On the last day of shooting, Spielberg wore his most expensive clothes to deter a dunking from the mutinous crew. As soon as the shot was captured, he jumped in a speedboat and sped shoreward yelling, "I shall not return.
16/21. Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, was used as Amity Island primarily because even 12 miles out to sea, the sandy bottom was only 30 feet down, allowing the mechanical shark to function. Residents were paid $64 to scream and run across the beach as extras.
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17/21. Steven Spielberg was not the original director of Jaws. The first person was fired after a meeting with producers and studio execs. In the meeting he said that his opening shot would have the camera come out of the water to show the town, then the whale (instead of the shark) would come out of the water. The producers said that they were not making 'Moby Dick' and would not work with someone who did not know the difference between a whale and a shark.
18/21. In addition to the well-known nickname of "Bruce", Steven Spielberg also called the shark "the great white turd" when he became quite frustrated with the troublesome animatronic fish.
19/21. During pre-production, director Steven Spielberg, accompanied by friends Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and John Milius, visited the effects shop where "Bruce" the shark was being constructed. Lucas stuck his head in the shark's mouth to see how it worked and, as a joke, Milius and Spielberg sneaked to the controls and made the jaw clamp shut on Lucas' head. Unfortunately, and rather prophetically, considering the later technical difficulties the production would suffer, the shark malfunctioned, and Lucas got stuck in the mouth of the shark. When Spielberg and Milius were finally able to free him, the three men ran out of the workshop, afraid they'd done major damage to the creature.
20/21. Steven Spielberg played first clarinet for the beach scene.
21/21. According to Steven Spielberg in the DVD 'making of' documentary, his original idea for introducing Quint was to have him in the local movie theater watching Moby Dick (1956) starring Gregory Peck. Quint was to be sitting at the back of the theater and laughing so loudly at the absurd special effects of the whale that he drove the other viewers to exit the theater, leaving Quint by himself. Spielberg says that the only thing that stopped him from doing that scene was Gregory Peck. Peck held part of the rights to that movie and when Spielberg approached him for permission, Peck turned him down. Not because he thought it was a bad idea to use the film that way, but because Peck didn't like his performance in Moby Dick (1956) and didn't want the film seen again.