Jaws Movie Easter Eggs: 24 Movie References And Fascinating Facts About The Classic Shark Movie
It's been 45 years since Jaws took to the big screen, skyrocketing director Steven Spielberg's career and creating the summer blockbuster. Upon release in June of that year, it became the highest-grossing movie of all time. That's a title it held onto until Star Wars: A New Hope arrived in 1977.
To this day, Spielberg's shark movie remains one of the most thrilling cinematic experiences of all time, as viewers are terrorized by the menacing beast as it chews its way through a list of victims--and more than one boat. Still, the story behind the making of this film might actually be more dramatic than the movie itself. With long filming delays, technical misfires, and so many other instances of things going wrong, it's surprising Jaws turned out at all, let alone as well as it did.
To kick off the 4th of July weekend, we decided to head back to Amity Island and revisit the journey police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and shark hunter Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) went on to track down and kill the massive great white shark. Take a look below to see everything we learned, from the drama behind the scenes to what Spielberg thought the first time he heard the film's iconic theme song. (Spoilers: He wasn't a fan.)
After learning all you'll need to know about Jaws, check out our deep dives in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Train to Busan, and Back to the Future. You can currently stream Jaws and all three of its incredibly inferior sequels on HBO Max.
1. The iconic theme
Yes, the theme of the movie Jaws is fantastic and helped cement John Williams as one of the greatest composers of all time. However, its use in the film is fascinating. It's actually used several times throughout the movie to let audiences know that the massive shark has arrived--and most times, you are seeing the events from the shark's point of view.
2. Weirdly, Spielberg didn't like the theme at first
The first time he heard Williams' theme for the movie, which is heavily based around only two simple notes, Spielberg thought it was a joke. "That’s funny, John, really," he said with a laugh. "But what did you really have in mind for the theme of Jaws?"
Of course, the score for the film went on to win an Oscar and the theme is one of the most legendary of Williams' career.
3. Spielberg's lawyer
While the shark's name is never said in the movie, and in fact, many people think its actual name is Jaws, the real story of the name is an inside joke. Spielberg named the shark Bruce in honor of his lawyer, Bruce Raynor.
4. There were three sharks
In all, three sharks were used in filming the movie. They were made with a steel skeleton structure covered in hard polyurethane rubber for the skin. To give the skin texture, chopped up walnuts, dust, and sand was used in the painting process.
5. The Shark is not working
Unfortunately, the three sharks, which were filled with electronics to make them move, were not tested in water. The saltwater the film was shot in created issues, leading to the sharks not working for large portions of filming. It led to production delays, stress for those involved, and a traumatic experience for Spielberg, who was working on his first big-budget movie.
However, the broken sharks also led to what makes Jaws so special. You don't see Bruce for the first half of the film. Instead, the beast operates underwater, while the camera is on the surface--or you see events from the shark's point of view. It kept Bruce's size a mystery for most of the film and when he finally struck, it left an impression.
6. The dead women's arm is actually a living crew member's
During filming, the arm of a dead woman that washed ashore was originally supposed to be a dummy. Spielberg didn't think it looked real enough, though, so instead, a female crew member was buried in the sand, with her arm standing in for the first victim's.
7. Amity Island is supposed to be in New York--it's not
In the novel the movie is based on, Amity Island is in New York. What's more, Chief Brody has relocated to the island from New York City. However, filming was instead done in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. It's never said in the film what state Amity is in.
8. That dolly zoom
One of the things Jaws is most remembered for, especially in the era of GIFs, is the shot that zooms in on Sheriff Brody as he sits on the beach. That shot, a dolly zoom, was created by second-under cameraman Irmin Roberts during the filming of Vertigo. How it's done is surprisingly simple. As the camera moves away from its subject on a dolly, the lens is zoomed in. The effect is a shot that appears to both zoom in and out simultaneously.
9. Foreshadowing Quint's fate
From the moment viewers meet Quint, it's clear how his story will end if you know what you're looking for. He's sitting next to a chalk drawing of a man inside of a shark's mouth for his entire first scene. Of course, by the end of the movie, he becomes Bruce's final meal.
10. Spielberg's puppy cameo
One of Brody's dogs is actually Spielberg's, named Elmer, who also appeared in his movies Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 1941.
11. A potential nod to James Bond
While Spielberg has not confirmed this himself, there are many James Bond fans out there who believe this license plate is a nod to the legendary secret agent--and the evidence is very convincing.
Obviously, the first three numbers on the plate being 007 is a good indication. However, it goes beyond that. The plate is from Louisiana, which is where Live and Let Die was filmed. Additionally, the license plate is marked with the years 1972 and 1973, the years Live and Let Die was filmed and released, respectively. Additionally, a version of the "Sportsmen's Paradise" motto on the place appeared in the Bond film.
While it's entirely possible this is a coincidence, it's worth noting that Spielberg is on the record as having wanted to direct a Bond movie. In a 2013 interview, he admitted he tried to get hired to direct a 007 movie twice and was turned down by Albert Broccoli, who produced most of the earlier films in the franchise.
12. One iconic scene was filmed in a swimming pool
One of the most horrifying moments in the film, in which Hooper discovers a dead body while scuba diving, simply wasn't scary enough the first time. After a test screening, Spielberg decided to try it again--but in a swimming pool.
The crew reassembled at the home of editor Verna Field's to use a pool in the backyard, with the director paying for the costs. A gallon of milk was dumped into the pool to make the water appear murky.
13. The author of Jaws
The reporter on the beach in Amity is actually Peter Benchley, who wrote the Jaws novel.
14. He also regrets writing the books
Years after publishing the novel, Benchley admitted he regrets writing it in the first place. "What I now know, which wasn't known when I wrote Jaws, is that there is no such thing as a rogue shark which develops a taste for human flesh," he said in an interview.
He later joined the National Council of Environmental Defense and wrote in one of his books, "Today I could not, for instance, portray the shark as a villain, especially not as a mindless omnivore that attacks boats and humans with reckless abandon No, the shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim, for, world-wide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors."
15. The slap heard 'round Amity was real
When Mrs. Kintner slaps Chief Brody after the death of her son, keep in mind she's not holding back. That's a very real, hard slap. In fact, this particular moment was shot 17 times in all.
16. Quint's perfectly named boat
Quint's boat being called the Orca is very poetic, given that there is evidence of the killer whales hunting and feeding on great white sharks.
17. That most famous line was ad-libbed
"You're gonna need a bigger boat" is easily one of the greatest lines in the history of film. And yet, it wasn't planned. In fact, it was thought of by Roy Scheider, the actor behind Hooper, in the moment. It was actually pulled by Scheider from a common refrain by those working on the movie. It started when the boat meant to steady a barge carrying everything from lights to craft services was deemed too small.
"[Richard] Zanuck and [David] Brown were very stingy producers, so everyone kept telling them, 'You're gonna need a bigger boat.' It became a catchphrase for anytime anything went wrong," screenwriter Carl Gottlieb told The Hollywood Reporter. "If lunch was late or the swells were rocking the camera, someone would say, 'You're gonna need a bigger boat."
Scheider used the line at various points throughout filming as a joke. That one ended up in the final cut, though.
18. Spielberg has a cameo
When a radio dispatcher attempts to patch through a call from Brody's wife to the Orca, that dispatcher is actually Spielberg.
19. The shooting star wasn't intentional
While the shooting star over the Orca is an impressive visual and certainly looks purposeful, the entire thing was simply a happy accident. The camera just happened to be aimed in the right direction at the right time.
20. An emotional song
As Brody, Quint, and Hooper sing "Show Me The Way To Go Home," Spielberg remembers the film's crew shedding tears. By that point, the song had become almost a mantra for those working on the film, due to long production delays, issues with the shark, and a generally exhausting experience making the film.
21. The book has a different ending
In the book, Hooper's story is quite a bit different. Originally, he had a history with Brody's wife Ellen, and then during the events of the story they have an affair. He also ends up being one of Bruce's victims after being eaten in the shark cage. Both the affair and death were removed from the film, giving both he and Brody happy endings.
22. Bruce's last stand
After being blown up, as Bruce sinks to the ocean floor, a roar is heard. Those who know Spielberg's movies well will recognize it as the same roar heard from the truck crashing in the movie Duel. Interestingly, the sound was originally pulled from the 1954 movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
23. The Orca's fate
After production of the film wrapped, a surviving Orca made its way to the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood. There, Spielberg would often spend time reflecting on his experience of making the film. "I used to come out for a couple of years after I made the movie to get over my PTSD, to Entertainment Weekly. "I would work through my own trauma, because it was traumatic. I would just sit in that boat alone for hours, just working through, and I would shake. My hands would shake."
However, one day--years later--he returned to the area where the Orca was kept and found it was gone. Universal had it destroyed, citing dry rot and termite damage. While a Jaws attraction remains part of the studio and theme park's backlot tour, a replica of the Orca has not been built to take the place of the original.
24. The food fight
At one point, deep into production, the cast and crew attended some kind of function that included a massive buffet of food. It was during that event that Roy Scheider instigated a food fight. "Roy started it," Spielberg said. "Roy threw a big glob of mashed potatoes and grave right into my face. And before I could recover and throw something at him, Richard Dreyfuss took his dessert and threw it into Roy's face." From there, it was on. "It was a bit of a 3 Stooges brawl," Spielberg remembered.
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