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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.