11 things you never knew about Jaws

When “ Jaws ” hit theaters in 1975 it was a smash-success, often called the first true blockbuster . Two years later, George Lucas’ “Star Wars” defeated it in the box office ( they shared a playful exchange on the subject ), but Spielberg’s “Jaws” was the OG.

Despite the film’s huge success, the production was plagued with issue after issue, roadblock after roadblock. The shoot went on longer than expected, went so over-budget that Spielberg shelled out his own cash for re-shot scenes, the script was still being written during the filming, and even the mechanical shark retreated … by accidentally sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

If you haven’t seen “Jaws,” you can live stream it right here . Before you watch it, though, you may be amused to know these 11 crazy facts. Let’s dive in :

1. The author of the novel makes a cameo

“Jaws” was originally a novel penned by Peter Benchley . He was present on-set for much of the filming, and even got this cameo scene on the beach:

Benchley grew to hate the film, especially its climax, later calling it “an eat-’em-up ending that lacks only Queequeg’s coffin to resemble a bath tub version of Moby-Dick.”

2. The most famous line was ad-libbed

When Brody is first surprised by the shark in this scene , he slinks back to Quint looking shell-shocked. He manages to croak out “we’re gonna need a bigger boat,” before the two head onto the deck. Roy Scheider actually improvised this line , but said it so quietly that it was drowned out by the screams of test audiences. Spielberg had to re-edit it to make the line more audible.

3. Spielberg thought the ‘Jaws’ music was a joke

Spielberg was very aware of John Williams’ talent before he asked him to write  for “Jaws.” Spielberg envisioned a score with otherworldy undertones and an eerie theme to match the context of an ominous underwater creature. When John Williams instead shared with him the two-note theme , Spielberg thought it was a joke .

4. ‘Finding Nemo’ wasn’t the first shark named ‘Bruce’

Bruce Ramer is a pretty big entertaiment lawyer in Los Angeles, and Steven Spielberg was one his clients. As a joking tribute (and ominous foreshadowing of the many issues the rig would have), the crew nicknamed the shark rig “Bruce.”

In 2003 “ Finding Nemo ” paid tribute to this by naming the shark in their film “Bruce” as well.

5. The Orca did actually sink

While there were issues with practically every aspect of the ocean portion of the shoot, no one expected part of the plot to literally happen: Due to a malfunction one day, however, the Orca did start to actually sink . Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss were all on-board at the time, sending Spielberg on a mad dash to bring boats out to rescue the actors and crew. When they arrived, Sound Engineer John R. Carter reportedly held his tape recorder over his head and shouted, “F**ck the actors, save the sound department!”

6. The shark ate George Lucas

George Lucas was friends with Spielberg as well as “Jaws” screenwriter, John Milius . He came to visit during production, and especially enjoyed his time in the special effects shop … until he got his head stuck in Bruce’s mouth . What started as a prank ended up an actual emergency when the controls jammed , leaving Lucas stuck inside. They ended up having to pry the rig open in order to save him. Good thing too; he hadn’t even made “Star Wars” yet!

7. Spielberg slept with celery under his pillow for the whole shoot

Spielberg was a perfectionist with his films, and that made the nerve-wracking experience of the “Jaws” shoot especially hard on the young director. Beset by mechanical problems with the shark, mounting pressure from the studio, and horrible weather conditions day after day, Spielberg suffered numerous mental breakdowns and sleepless nights. The cure? Celery . To help the poor man sleep at night, he had a familiar pillow sent from his California home, underneath which he kept a single stalk of celery. Apparently, the smell was comforting to him , and helped ease him to sleep.

8. That’s Spielberg’s dog

Spielberg owned pets throughout his life, and had a particular fondness for dogs. During “Jaws,” his puppy Elma even got to make a cameo, sitting on Martin Brody’s couch.

9. That’s also him on clarinet

Early in the movie, there’s a scene on the beach where a high school band is playing a Sousa march. That’s John Williams’ orchestra as well, but many of them found it difficult to “play down” to a high school level. The solution? Put Spielberg on first clarinet. According to Williams, it “added just the right amateur quality to the piece.”

10. Fidel Castro loved it

“Jaws” was a huge commercial success, breaking box office records left and right. Of all people, Fidel Castro was a big fan of the story , and reportedly loved the book. The year the film came out he called the tale “a marvelous metaphor about the corruption of capitalism.”

11. This scene was shot in a pool

The above is definitely one of the more frightening scenes in the film; there’s something especially striking about the image of Ben Gardner’s head through the chewed up boat. While many scenes were shot in the actual Atlantic ocean , this one actually was not one of them. Instead, it was shot six months after principal photography was finished. Spielberg pored over the original scene, but eventually decided it needed a re-shoot . He borrowed some props and film equipment from the Univeral backlot and set up in the swimming pool of the movie’s editor, Verna Fields . He paid for the re-shoot out of his own pocket.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these 11 odd facts about “Jaws;” enjoy your next trip to the beach!

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