ByDean Round, writer at
Fan of good ol' slasher films. Love me a bit of Jaws too!
Dean Round

Jaws is turning 40 this year! It was successful at the Oscars, and made people afraid to go into the water for many generations. But listed below are 12 bizarre facts that not every Jaws fan may have heard of before. What do you think of them? Sound off in the comments section below!

1. Pepé Le Pew attacks a cast member!

Probably one of the strangest stories to emerge from the production of Jaws was that of Murray Hamilton's encounter with a rather smelly animal! Following a demanding day of filming as Amity’s mayor, Larry Vaughn, Hamilton decided to go for a walk back to his hotel where he had been staying. Was it Smelly Cat, as featured in the beloved song Phoebe sang about in Friends? Unfortunately not. Smelly Cat was in fact a skunk! Being greeted with a powerful squirt from the skunk's bum, Hamilton stumbled back to his hotel in a dazed and confused state. The stench from the skunk was so horrendous that the actor had to burn all of his clothes!

2. The death of Alex Kintner had to be cut

Original picture of Alex Kintner scene.
Original picture of Alex Kintner scene.

Any death of a child in a film is going to raise a few eyebrows, and the one of Alex Kintner was no exception. However, the shot of the boy’s death on his inflatable raft had to be cut.

For lovers of the film, they would have all heard the stories of how the mechanical shark would not play ball for the majority of the film, which led to Jaws becoming frightening for what the audience doesn’t see, rather than what they do see.

Several early sequences of the movie were written to feature the shark in all its glory, but the shark just wouldn’t work the way it was supposed to. This is not to say that more explicit versions of sequences weren't attempted with the shark, even if they didn’t ultimately work, or were plainly too violent for the movie's desired PG certificate.

An example of this involves the scene where Alex Kintner is killed by the shark while Chief Brody observes from the beach. In the final version of the film, we get to view a few glimpses of the shark, but the forceful splashes and the monstrous spurt of blood are the main factors which make the scene so good.

Even so, extraordinary pictures demonstrate that an alternative version of the scene was filmed where the shark appears significantly in the scene. It is not too sure whether these shots were not included in the film due to the shark malfunctioning or due to the fact they were too disturbing for a PG certificate.

3. Smile you son of a b*tch!

At the very end of the film, Chief Brody blows the shark into smithereens and it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The “death cry” of the shark during this scene is sampled from 1954’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The audio was taken from Steven Spielberg’s directional debut Duel (1971), which was incidentally used as the death cry of the truck in the film.

4. Quints naughty limerick

Here lies the body of Mary Lee...
died at the age of 103.
For 15 years, she kept her virginity...
not a bad record for this vicinity.

The song that Quint sings prior to setting off on the Orca, was taken from a headstone that actor Robert Shaw had read in Ireland.

5. Robert Shaw was on the run from the Internal Revenue Service!

When Robert Shaw had finished filming his scenes in the movie, he had to leave the country as he worried about owing taxes to the IRS. During his days off from filming, he had to fly out to Canada and Bermuda in order to reduce his working hours in the US. Funnily enough, Sterling Hayden, another actor who was considered for the part of Quint, had to turn it down as he too was on the run to escape his IRS problems.

6. The author was kicked off the set

The original novel written by author Peter Benchley ended with Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) being eaten by the shark, and Quint (Robert Shaw) becoming caught in a rope and dragged to his death to the bottom of the sea. Brody (Roy Scheider) was to be left powerless as he remained in the water as the shark circled him. The climax of the film ended with the shark moving in for the kill, only to suddenly die from exhaustion and severe hemorrhaging.

However, Spielberg found the conclusion too disappointing for the audience, and so opted to give the viewers something that would have them on tenterhooks. Exasperated and aggravated by the changes, Benchley constantly complained and was finally thrown off the set. In spite of their varying opinions, Benchley shortly admitted that Spielberg was completely right.

Peter Benchley in Jaws
Peter Benchley in Jaws

7. It could have missed out on an Oscar

The iconic movie score that was composed by 5-time Academy Award winner John Williams (Fiddler on the Roof 1971, Star Wars 1977, Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977, Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982, Schindler’s List 1993) was perceived as a joke by director Steven Spielberg. He thought that the score was just too simple and so asked for it to be repeated again and again until suddenly it was just right and Spielberg loved it. Jaws won the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and is ranked sixth on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years of Film Scores.

8. What a slapper!

During an interview, actor Roy Scheider said that in the scene where a bereaved Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro) slaps him across the face, she had to do for real. The actress could not fake the slap, and after 17 takes(!), the scene was finished. At the time, Scheider said that they was some of the “most painful” scenes in his career.

9. Robert Shaw was often intoxicated

Throughout the film, actor Robert Shaw really couldn’t cope with his drinking problem during production. While giving his famous USS Indianapolis speech, he approached Spielberg and said:

You know, Steven, all three of these characters have been drinking and I think I could do a much better job in this speech if you let me actually have a few drinks before I do the speech.

He unwisely allowed him to have a drink, but the scene was so bad that none of the footage could be used. Feeling subdued, he eventually decided to call Spielberg and ask whether he could give it another try, which he did the following day in only one take.

10. Great White Turd!

Back in 1975, there was little knowledge of how to create a gigantic mechanical shark. Production designer Joe Alves (Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977) was delighted to discover retired Special Effects man Bob Mattey, who had previously designed a giant squid for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

Mattey was optimistic that they could recreate a 25-foot model instead of using miniatures as this would look more fearsome and believable. Alves hired a genuine set of great white shark jaws from the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. A group of professionals who focused on plastics, electronics, hydraulics, etc. were brought together, with shark experts Ron and Valerie Taylor being hired to give feedback on the model shark's movement.

It’s a well-known fact that the mechanical shark used in the film was not tested in the water prior to production. When it was first put into the water to be filmed, it quickly sank to the bottom of the sea, and alas, the name “The Great White Turd” was born!

The Great White Turd in all its glory!
The Great White Turd in all its glory!

11. You’re gonna need to make it up!

Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.
Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women
Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn't any propeller; and it wasn't any coral reef; and it wasn't Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.
Martin, it's all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell shark, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

Need I go on?

The film is filled with memorable quotes and one-liners. However, there is one particular line that stands the test of time, and is possibly one of the most misquoted as well.

When Mr. Sharky pops up to say “hello” when chum is being thrown into the water, Brody literally sh*ts himself. Backing into the cabin, he quietly says to Quint:

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

It’s one of the most famous quotes ever, and the best thing of all is that it wasn’t in the script, being made up on the spot by Roy Scheider.

12. A main character was meant to die

As previously mentioned, Hooper died in Benchley’s novel after the shark bites through the steel cage when Hooper is in it. This was also storyboarded, but destiny interfered and Hooper was saved.

When the shooting of the film was in process, Ron and Valerie Taylor had an amazing shot of a great white shark attacking the cage. Becoming tangled in a rope, the shark smashed the cage to pieces, and they both disappeared into the murky depths.

This spectacular footage was a must, but it lacked one vital detail: no one was in the cage when the shark attacked. Spielberg felt the footage was too good to not include in the film, so the scene was rewritten, sparing Dreyfuss's character.

On another note, in order to make the shark look bigger in this scene, Dreyfuss was not actually in the water. The filmmakers decided to get a smaller cage and instead of having Dreyfuss, they had a 4 ft. 9 ex-jockey in a wetsuit!

The stunt double playing Hooper
The stunt double playing Hooper

So, with all these things going on behind the scenes, it's a wonder the film ever got made!


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