Adapted from the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is one of the best thrillers of all-time. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film starred Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw and told the story of Amity Island’s battle with a man-eating great white shark.
I, like many others, am a huge fan of Jaws and have seen it countless times, whether it is through TV and DVD screenings or via routine re-releases at the cinema. In my honest opinion the movie is a near perfect example of how to present an engaging and enjoyable piece of entertainment and is without doubt one of Spielberg’s finest moments.
But how much do you know about Jaws? Want to know more?
Then read on…
40 facts about Jaws (1975)
1. Jaws was produced on a budget of around $9 million, which by today’s standards is pretty miniscule, but this budget was actually a considerable increase from its original estimated budget of $3.5 million. The movie currently has an all-time box office take of $470.7 million.
2. Most of Jaws was shot on location on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
3. One of the reasons Spielberg chose to shoot the movie at Martha’s Vineyard was because it provided him with extras who he felt the audience would connect with. Speaking to Ain’t It Cool in June 2011, Spielberg, said: “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.”
4. Movie producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown purchased the movie rights for Jaws prior to the publication of Peter Benchley’s original novel. They reportedly paid $175,000.
5. The screenplay for Jaws is credited to Peter Benchley and actor and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, who provided rewrites.
6. Three pneumatically powered sharks were created for Jaws. The sharks were given the name Bruce, in honour of Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Raimer. The 2003 movie Finding Nemo features a shark named Bruce, which is a nod to Jaws.
7. Spielberg requested that the art department avoid using the colour red in both the wardrobe and the scenery of Jaws. Spielberg did this because he wanted the sight of blood to cause a big impact, which he felt would have been diminished if the colour red appeared frequently throughout the movie.
8. Jaws notoriously suffered from a troubled shoot, with many noting that Spielberg’s insistence to film the movie at sea was a big part of the problem. This is something which Spielberg himself admitted back in an interview with Ain’t It Cool, in June 2011: “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.”
9. Jaws was initially given a shooting schedule of 55 days but it overran considerably and instead completed after 159 days.
10. Due to constant problems with the sharks, Spielberg was forced to shoot scenes which hinted at, but didn’t show, the film’s protagonist. This actually helped increase tension in the movie and ultimately benefited the story.
11. Crew members reportedly referred to the film as Flaws because of the constant production problems.
12. Jon Voight, Joel Grey and Jeff Bridges were initially considered for the role of Hooper, but the part eventually went to Richard Dreyfuss. Star Wars director George Lucas suggested Dreyfuss after having previously worked with him on American Graffiti (1973).
13. Before Robert Shaw took on the role of Quint, the part was offered to Lee Marvin.
14. Roy Scheider became interested in Jaws after he overheard Steven Spielberg discussing the movie at a party.
15. Peter Benchley appeared in a cameo role in Jaws. Benchley played the part of a reporter.
16. The first shark attack victim seen in Jaws is Chrissie Watkins. Chrissie was played by Susan Backline, a former actress and stuntwoman.
17. Perhaps the most quoted line from the film, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” was actually adlibbed by actor Roy Scheider.
18. Steven Spielberg’s dog Elmer appeared in Jaws.
19. The iconic music in Jaws was provided by legendary composer John Williams. Williams’ score was used to create a sense of fear and impending doom so that audiences would be afraid of the shark even when it wasn’t on screen. Williams had previously scored Spielberg’s 1974 movie The Sugarland Express. Following his work on Jaws he continued working with Spielberg on movies which included Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Jurassic Park (1993) amongst others.
20. John Williams’ Jaws score won numerous awards including an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music.
21. When Spielberg first heard John Williams’ theme for Jaws, he didn’t like it.
22. There are a number of differences between the original novel and the finished film, including the fate of Hooper. In the book Hooper was killed in the shark cage, whilst in the film Hooper escaped from the cage.
23. Another notable difference between the book and the film was the relationship between Hooper and Ellen Brody. In Benchley’s original story, Ellen and Hooper had an affair, whilst in the film they shared very little screen time.
24. The movie’s poster was based on the cover art of Peter Benchley’s paperback novel.
25. Although Jaws hit cinema screens in June 1975 in the US, UK audiences didn’t get to see the movie until late December.
26. Jaws was the first film to gross more than $100 million at the US box office.
27. Jaws was accompanied by a succession of tie-in merchandise, including a game which required players to hook debris from the mouth of a plastic shark. The game – designed for two to four players – was made by the Ideal Toy Company and carried the description: ‘It’s you against the great white shark… One wrong move… and the JAWS go snap!’
28. Jaws made its US TV debut in 1979. The movie didn’t appear on UK TV screens until 1981.
29. To mark its 40th anniversary in 2015, Jaws was being rereleased across more than 500 US cinemas.
30. In total, Jaws won three Academy Awards: Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound.
31. Jaws lost out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards.
32. The success of Jaws led to three sequels, Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987). Steven Spielberg did not direct any of the sequels. Actors Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton and Jeffrey Kramer returned for the first sequel. Lorraine Gary also appeared in Jaws: The Revenge.
33. Jaws currently has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 79% rating on Metacritic and has been reviewed at least twice by Empire, receiving a score of five out of five on both occasions. In Roger Ebert’s 1975 review of Jaws, the late film critic gave the film four stars, commenting: “Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller.”
34. In 1999, Rolling Stone Magazine listed Jaws number 34 in its list of 100 maverick movies. Jaws appeared amongst the subcategory of ‘mainstream hits that still have juice’. Casablanca (1942), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) also appeared amongst this sub-category.
35. In 2001, the Library of Congress selected Jaws for preservation in the United States National Film Registry after it was deemed a film which was culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
36. The success of Jaws convinced Hollywood that summer movies built around a strong marketing campaign could reap big rewards and this has remained the model for blockbuster movies ever since. It is the reason that each summer audiences line up to watch a succession of big movies. In 2005, speaking on BBC News, Neil Smith, said: “Before Jaws, summer was considered a graveyard for Hollywood studios – a time when distributors released titles they considered sub-standard and unlikely to turn a profit. All that changed on 20 June 1975, when Spielberg’s shark tale opened on 409 cinemas – a record at the time – across the US.”
37. In 2008, Empire magazine ranked Jaws as the fifth greatest film in history.
38. Jaws was responsible for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). In a 2011 interview with Ain’t It Cool, Spielberg said: “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.”
39. Not everyone was a fan of the movie. Charles Champlin’s 1975 review of Jaws, entitled ‘Don’t Go Near the Water’ had this to say: “While I have no doubt that “Jaws” will make a bloody fortune for Universal and producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, it is a coarse-grained and exploitive work which depends on excess for its impact. Ashore it is a bore, awkwardly staged and lumpily written.”
40. Jaws has inspired and influenced many movies over the past 40 years, including Orca (1977), Deep Blue Sea (1999) and even Alien, which was initially pitched as ‘Jaws in space’.
This post was originally published on the Honcho-SFX blog.