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Jaws Everett Richard Dreyfuss Shark

Dock Tales

10 Crazy Facts You Might Not Know About Jaws

Catch a Jaws movie marathon this month on IFC.

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In the summer of 1975, Jaws scared beachgoers away from the water and into the safety of dark movie theaters, culminating in the first Hollywood blockbuster. Much of the history surrounding the making of Jaws has become the stuff of legend, from feuding actors to problems with the mechanical sharks. We took a deep dive and fished up these 10 crazy facts about the making of a cinematic classic that make crusty old fisherman Quint look sane. Dip your toes in…if you dare.

1. The shark was named “Bruce” after Spielberg’s lawyer.

Everett Collection/Universal Pictures
Everett Collection/Universal Pictures

Bruce Ramer was (and still is) a prominent entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, so when the crew was building the three large mechanical sharks for the film, they jokingly nicknamed them after Spielberg’s attorney. “The Bruces” proved problematic throughout the shoot, and according to screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, were more often referred to by the crew as “that sonofabitchin’ bastard rig,” “the great white turd,” and other names too NSFW to print. Pixar paid homage to Spielberg’s “Bruce” in 2003’s Finding Nemo, giving one of their own shark characters the same lawyerly moniker.


2. The Orca sank for real and nearly ruined an entire day’s footage.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

The entire ocean portion of the Jaws shoot was plagued with technical difficulties, but no one expected the Orca to actually begin sinking with Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss onboard. Due to a malfunction, the boat started leaking, causing Spielberg to send another boat in a mad dash to retrieve the actors and crew from the sinking ship. One camera was submerged, but technicians were able to salvage the film inside, saving Spielberg from having to add yet another day to his already backlogged (and waterlogged) shooting schedule.


3. Richard Dreyfuss and Elizabeth Taylor shared the same stuntman.

When shark experts Ron and Valerie Taylor were shooting underwater footage of Great White sharks off the coast of Australia for the film, they were unable to find any close enough in size to the one described in the script, let alone one that would dwarf Richard Dreyfuss. Spielberg’s solution was to hire 4’11” stuntman Carl Rizzo to serve as Dreyfuss’ onscreen double to make the real sharks appear larger in scale. Unfortunately, Rizzo mostly only had experience riding horses (he doubled for child actors like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet) so he was terrified throughout the entire underwater shoot and refused to go back into the cage to film the climactic scene where the shark attacks the cage.


4. Robert Shaw ducked the IRS during the shoot.

Everett Collection/Universal Pictures
Everett Collection/Universal Pictures

Shaw drank quite a bit on set and was often a volatile presence, but he also frequently worried about his taxes. The native Brit was reportedly being pursued by both the IRS and British taxmen, causing the actor to flee the country on weekends for Canada to avoid facing a tax liability for spending too many hours on U.S. soil. In fact, Shaw had to forgo his salary on the film in order to make amends with the IRS for his charges of tax evasion. Sadly, it would seem both that Bruce the shark and loan sharks bested Shaw.


5. One of the scariest scenes was shot in a swimming pool.

There’s no question one of the biggest scares in Jaws comes courtesy of fisherman Ben Gardner’s head popping through an underwater hole in his chewed up boat. More surprising than Ben’s severed head is that the scene was reshot in editor Verna Fields’ swimming pool in Van Nuys, California, six months after principal photography wrapped in New England. Unhappy with the original version, Spielberg borrowed the props and some film equipment from the Universal backlot and set everything up in Fields’ pool, adding milk to the water to give it the same murky look as the water in Martha’s Vineyard. The scene was seamlessly cut back into the film and has been making audiences jump ever since.


6. The actor who played the Mayor of Amity got skunked.

Murray Hamilton

Sharks weren’t the only predators terrorizing the cast. Murray Hamilton, who played greedy Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn, was out having dinner and drinks with castmate Jeffrey Kramer (who played police officer Lenny Hendricks) and went to pet what he thought was a cat on his walk back to his hotel.  Having had quite a few cocktails, Hamilton was pretty buzzed and didn’t notice it was actually a skunk he was attempting to pet, which sprayed him all over. Kramer had to help Hamilton bathe in tomato juice to get rid of the stench.


7. Roy Scheider started a food fight during a cast and crew dinner.

Roy Scheider laughing

Tensions were constantly running high during the lengthy, challenging shoot, so it’s no surprise everyone was looking for ways to blow off some steam. One night while the entire crew was having a catered buffet dinner at the Kelly House on Martha’s Vineyard, Roy Scheider flung a fistful of mashed potatoes and gravy into Spielberg’s face. Richard Dreyfuss, seizing his opportunity, hurled his plate of dessert at Scheider, and soon the entire crew (including the hired help serving the food) joined in the brouhaha. When the food fight ended, Dreyfuss, Scheider, and Spielberg all jumped in the swimming pool to clean up. Did that mashed potato fight perhaps inspire Dreyfuss’ Devils Tower sculpture in Spielberg’s next film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind?


8. George Lucas got stuck inside the mechanical shark’s mouth.

Drink Jaws

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Spielberg had trouble with the mechanical sharks before shooting even began. When George Lucas came to visit friends Spielberg and uncredited screenwriter John Milius in the special effects shop, he stuck his head inside Bruce’s mouth. Spielberg and Milius decided to play a prank on Lucas and closed Bruce’s jaws on him, but the controls jammed, leaving Lucas stuck inside. Bruce’s jaws had to be pried open in order to rescue the future Star Wars director from a most embarrassing predicament.


9. Richard Dreyfuss hurled Robert Shaw’s drink into the ocean.

Robert Shaw, who played crusty shark hunter Quint, was famously drunk throughout the making of Jaws. His drunken behavior caused him to butt heads with Richard Dreyfuss, so much so that when Shaw announced to the cast and crew that he wished he could stop drinking, Dreyfuss grabbed Shaw’s glass of booze and tossed it into the sea. When it came time to film Quint’s famous monologue about the sinking of the Indianapolis, Shaw was wasted and Spielberg deemed the footage unusable. Shaw was so remorseful that he begged Spielberg for another try. He came back the next day sober, and nailed the intense monologue in one take.


10. Spielberg slept with a stalk of celery under his pillow throughout the shoot.

Everett Collection/Universal Pictures
Everett Collection/Universal Pictures

Despite making a name for himself with gritty TV work like the killer trucker flick Duel, the then 27-year-old Steven Spielberg was coming off of the Goldie Hawn box office flop The Sugarland Express when Jaws went into production. A perfectionist by nature, the young filmmaker was under mounting pressure from the studio, producers, and the film’s accountants to deliver even in the midst of mechanical problems, inclement weather, and temperamental actors. Spielberg had several mental breakdowns and spent many sleepless nights in his cabin amid growing fears he was going to be taken off the film. To combat his anxiety and insomnia, he had a pillow sent from his home in California and slept with a stalk of celery underneath, because the smell soothed his nerves. Maybe if Quint had celery in his pocket he wouldn’t have ended up in a shark’s belly.

 

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.