Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is the epitome of a classic. Upon its release, it was groundbreaking, due to its use of practical special effects, and terrifying oceanic sequences. It was such a big hit, that it launched the idea of a blockbuster and the summer movie sensation. While it was an undeniable success and considered by many to be one of the best movies ever made, production on Jaws wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, as a myriad of production issues almost drowned the 1975 flick. Now, the legendary director has opened up about one particular incident that caused a boat to start sinking with actors aboard.
Spielberg was interviewed extensively for the biography Spielberg: The First Ten Years, which chronicles the astounding and unreplicable first ten years of the director’s career. In it, he discussed the difficult filming experience on Jaws, which included budget issues, behind-the-scenes conflict, and the disastrous nature of shooting a movie in the ocean. The Oscar winner detailed the nightmarish production, as well as a situation that resulted in a dangerous predicament for the actors. He said (via Vanity Fair):
It’s almost unbelievable that such a problematic production resulted in Oscar gold. It is also such a product of the time, and if this happened now, lawyers likely would have been involved quickly. Spielberg was only 26 when he made Jaws, which was his second feature film. He was still a newbie when it came to crafting safety measures and some of the more logistical aspects of managing a film set. While the actors and sound mixers may have been upset at the time, I’d like to believe any negative feelings disappeared when they were holding Academy Awards.
The actors aren’t the only ones who were constantly sinking on Jaws, so was the shark. Special effects designers engineered a moving shark that would devour the actors on screen. However, behind-the-scenes stories from the Jaws set have revealed that the mechanics of the shark were constantly broken by the ocean’s saltwater because it would eat away at the set piece. As a result, the shark was only in the movie for a fraction of the intended time. This ended up becoming a positive for the film, as the absence of the shark built tension and anticipation. It’s one of the many reasons people still love the Spielberg film.
I can not imagine the stress of such a filming situation. Being in the cold Massachusetts ocean, with actors and sharks sinking and the production budget skyrocketing, is overwhelmingly stressful. However, with the film’s ultimate success and its coveted spot in film history, it now all just seems like a great story. If the Jurassic Park director had to make Jaws again today, he probably would’ve just tried to make the production easier for the crew. A bigger boat for the actors also wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
You can revisit Steven Spielberg’s iconic film, Jaws, by streaming it now for free on Tubi. Fans can find out more about the veteran director and his experience making the 1975 classic by checking out the documentary, Spielberg, which is streaming now with a Max subscription.