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"The 'making-of' story is nearly as good as the film itself…Gottlieb's behind-the-scenes account of the production is riveting." —Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
"To this day my favorite piece of 'making-of' material. It's like a little movie director bible." —Bryan Singer, director of X-Men and The Usual Suspects
Posted August 24, 2010
If you're like me, you consider the 1975 film Jaws to be one of the best motion pictures of all time. Before the age of CGI and various special effects, then novice director Steven Spielberg had to depend on an often irritable and uncooperative mechanical shark, underwater film footage, phenomenally well cast actors and a superb script. And the rest, they say, is cinematic history.
Carl Gottlieb, one of the screenwriters on Jaws, recounts the several years long battle not only to get this iconic movie made but also the bumps and problems encountered along the way. Particularly fascinating, in my opinion, was that with the exception of one notable scene, Jaws was shot on the ocean. Fantastic for film viewing but not so much for the overtaxed crew who had to deal with sinking boats, choppy waters, weather and passing sailboats. And remember, this was a time when movies were primarily shot at the studios (or a water tank at the studio). And that aforementioned scene? That was the infamous "Ben Gardner's head" shot with Richard Dreyfuss . . . and that scene was shot at editor Verna Fields' pool (with help from a little milk to make the water look murky).
Also fun was reading about the two mechanical sharks (jovially nicknamed Bruce by Spielberg, who coined the moniker after his lawyer's first name) and the many difficulties they brought to the film set. Their problems were our reward in the end, as not seeing the shark, or only seeing quick glimpses, made it that much more frightening.
Spielberg is presented in a warm and extremely creative light by Gottlieb and his longstanding tradition of never being on set for the final day of filming is explained here (and started with Jaws). Interesting to note, as well, that Spielberg was not the first choice as director and was convinced throughout much of the filming that Jaws would be dead in the water and would bury his Hollywood career (which consisted of one film up to that point). Ah, how the tides turned.
The chapters on the casting of the central characters made for informative reading. Only Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughn was the first choice actor cast with all others being second or lower choices. Could we really imagine anyone else but Roy Scheider as Chief Brody or, especially, anyone but Robert Shaw as the tough old Quint?
Gottlieb also shares behind the scenes friction between Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, which translated well into their characters' animosity on film, as well as Shaw's well reported drinking and flying to Canada on off days to avoid taxes.
And remember Roy Scheider's famous line "You're gonna need a bigger boat?" Per Gottlieb, that line wasn't scripted but was improvised by Scheider.
Of particular interest is how the film was received upon release and how long it was in first run at the theaters (from June 1975 well into December 1975 - - unheard of today). In case you didn't know, Jaws was the first ever summer blockbuster, making over $100 million.
Gottlieb also provides updates on many of the central characters who are still with us - - you will be happy to know that Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner) still resides at Martha's Vineyard and is still acting in the local theater group and Jeffrey Vorhees, who played her son, Alex Kintner, owes a sandwich shop on Martha's Vineyard that serves an Alex M. Kintner meat sandwich.
I would recommend The Jaws Log to any film lover. You can't go wrong.
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