Creator Backlash: During interviews later in his career, Peter Benchley claimed he came to regret writing the novel when he learned about the growing worldwide fear of sharks, and he felt his book and its film version had led to massive shark overfishing that was driving several species close to extinction. He became a vocal ocean conservation activist to make up for it, and remained so until his death. His later book The Beast even features the hero ranting in his head about how much damage the film has supposedly done.
Executive Meddling: The sex scene was originally between Brody and his wife, but changed to Ellen with Hooper as the book editor felt there wasn't "any place for this wholesome marital sex in this kind of book".
God Does Not Own This World: Once his payment of the adaptation-related royalties got late, Peter Benchley called his agent and she replied that the studio was arranging a deal for sequels. Benchley disliked the idea, saying, "I don't care about sequels; who'll ever want to make a sequel to a movie about a fish?" He subsequently relinquished the Jaws sequel rights, aside for a one-time payment of $70,000 for each one.
Old Shame: The movie's popularity turned the book into this for Peter Benchley. Benchley lamented that he would never have written the book had he actually known anything about sharks and that they weren't like the monster about which he had written.
Sleeper Hit: In Peter Benchley's words, "I knew that Jaws couldn't possibly be successful. It was a first novel, and nobody reads first novels. It was a first novel about a fish, so who cares?" Yet the publisher saw potential, and their efforts made it a million seller by the time the movie came out.
Working Title: The Stillness in the Water, Leviathan Rising, The Jaws of Death and The Jaws of Leviathan (the pattern of the last made Benchley eventually choose simply Jaws). When Benchley couldn't think of a title in the first place, his father Nathaniel suggested the substantially less serious What's That Noshin' On Ma Leg.
Ben Gardner was played by local fishermen, farmer and eccentric Craig Kingsbury. Steven Spielberg described Kingsbury as "the purest version of who, in my mind, Quint was", and some of his offscreen utterances were incorporated into the script as lines of Gardner and Quint.
The medical inspector was played by a real doctor, Robert Nevin.
Creator Couple: Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody's actress) is the wife of Universal's then-president Sidney Sheinberg.
An alternate discovery of Chrissie's remains, with Brody forcing a reluctant Cassidy to identify her.
Mayor Vaughn trying to get Brody to do something about the kids using his fence for karate practice while on the car ferry.
Quint buying piano wire for his fishing pole and "encouraging" a boy playing a clarinet (and by encouraging we mean yelling at the kid).
On the way to cut open the tiger shark, Hooper tells Brody about a $1200 phone bill and a girl who liked phone sex.
Mrs. Kintner coming out of the town hall with her father after posting the reward notice and passing Quint who is getting out of his truck.
Ellen talking to Hooper over dinner about a documentary she saw on sea lions.
The shark hunters' flotilla battles amongst itself to pull up a tiger shark to claim the bounty.
There was an added scene shot for the fourth victim that showed him seemingly being pushed by the shark as he grabs Michael Brody and attempts to drag him down with him before dying and letting him go. Steven Spielberg decided that the scene should be cut because he felt that it was too bloody and in bad taste.
On the laserdisc version, there is an additional scene where Quint and his little friend are talking in a boathouse. His friend tells him he's not going with him to hunt the shark. Quint responds by calling him a "miserable little son of a bitch."
Enforced Method Acting: Initially, they weren't getting the reaction shot Spielberg wanted from Susan Backlinie when the shark first grabs Chrissie, so they did a take where they didn't tell her when it was going to happen. That's the take that went into the movie.
Fan Nickname: Due to the first shark's Production Nickname, the later sharks are usually called "Bruce (sequel number)" or something along those lines. The baby shark in the third movie also tends to be called Bruce Jr. to distinguish it from its parent.
Fountain of Expies: As this review notes, Jaws inspired hundreds of killer animal movies, with Quint and Vaughn being the source (or at least the codifiers) for a large number of imitations.
Hostility on the Set: The relationship between Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss was notoriously antagonistic, which of course carried over into their characters. Roy Scheider described Shaw as "a perfect gentleman whenever he was sober. All he needed was one drink and then he turned into a competitive son-of-a-bitch."
On one occasion, Shaw was having a drink between takes, at which one point he announced, "I wish I could quit drinking." Much to the surprise and horror of the crew, Dreyfuss simply grabbed Shaw's glass and tossed it into the ocean.
Dreyfuss claimed that although Shaw could be very nice to him in private, such as the time he read Dreyfuss his entire play, The Man in the Glass Booth, while the two were sitting in the hold of the Orca, publicly he was brutal to him, telling him things like he thought Dreyfuss would only have a career "if there's room for another Jewish character man like Paul Muni." At one point, Shaw, remarking loudly on what he said was Dreyfuss' cowardice, dared him to climb to the top of the Orca's mast (about 75 feet) and jump off into the ocean, for which he would pay him upwards of $1,000 (the price rising with each taunt). Steven Spielberg finally intervened by telling Dreyfuss, "I don't care how much money he offers you, you're not jumping off the mast, not in my movie."
Another time, Shaw drenched Dreyfuss with a fire hose. Dreyfuss yelled at him, "That's it, I don't want to work with you anymore, go fuck yourself" and stormed off the set for the day.
Science Marches On: Much more has been learned about shark behavior since 1975. As a consequence, most of the theories Hooper voices, believed to be valid at the time, have since been disproven.
At the time the general conception really was that great white sharks are "mindless eating machines". It has since been proven that great whites have a complex social hierarchy, distinctive personalities, and definitely a capacity for learning and rudimentary reasoning.
There were problems with getting the mechanical shark to work, forcing the creators to turn it into mostly The Unseen.
Quint's Indianapolis speech was only recorded because the crew was waiting around for "Bruce" to be repaired (again), so Spielberg added more dialogue to keep from wasting so much shooting-time. It wound up being the dramatic high point of the film.
Hooper was Spared by the Adaptation because when shooting scenes in Australia with actual sharks and a miniature cage and diver, there was that great take of the shark rolling on top of the shark cage - but it was empty (the stuntman had fled for his life). So instead of the shark tearing Hooper to pieces (per the novel), the filmmakers changed the script to have Hooper escape and survive. As executive Bill Gilmore put it, "The sharks down in Australia rewrote the script and saved Dreyfuss's character."
Quint's rant to Brody about getting the Mayor off his back so he wouldn't "have any more of this zoning crap" reflects the fact that the real-life town of Martha's Vineyard almost didn't allow the building of the set for Quint's shack due to zoning regulations, only allowing a variance at the last minute... then ironically wanted the production to leave it standing as a tourist attraction afterwards. They refused, pointing out that under the town's own laws they would have to pay daily fines for failing to tear down the set.
Shoot the Money: Averted. Despite the expense of the animatronic sharks used to film the movie, they were plagued with mechanical difficulties which limited their screen time. Most critics agree that this works to the benefit of the movie creating a more frightening atmosphere and increasing the effect when it does appear.
Spared by the Cut: When filming in Australia, the crew managed to capture a too-awesome-not-to-use shot of a shark rolling on top of Hooper's shark cage. However, the cage was empty at the time because the stuntman had already swam for his life. Thus, to avoid creating a continuity error, the film was rewritten so Hooper escapes his encounter with the shark instead of being torn to pieces as in the original novel.
Roy Scheider ad-libbed the famous "You're gonna need a bigger boat." line.
The shooting star that appears as Brody loads his revolver on the boat is real, not something added in post-production.
The footage of the Shark rolling on top of the shark cage wasn't planned, but it was considered far too awesome not to use. This lead to Hooper surviving, since he wasn't in the shot.
The Indianapolis speech was written by Howard Sackler. Robert Shaw then rewrote some of it, turning it into a monologue. It was Spielberg who felt that Quint needed a motivation for his quest. Its inclusion in the final film is only because yet another shark shot failed.
"The Body of Mary Lee" poem was thrown in by Robert Shaw. When the producers asked who wrote it so that they could be sure to get the rights, Shaw assured them the rights wouldn't be an issue: he'd found it on an old tombstone in Ireland.
Richard Dreyfuss summed it up as follows: "We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark." Principal photography began without a completed script or shark props, and Carl Gottlieb frequently wrote script pages on the night before shooting. Steven Spielberg, inexperienced with large-scale filmmaking at the time, insisted on shooting in open waters. This decision created many of the headaches experienced during shooting.
The problems from shooting in open waters included soaked cameras, ruined takes because unwanted sailboats drifted into frame, cast and crew having to make long journeys to and from the sea, and at one point the ship began sinking with the actors aboard. Out of a 12-hour working day, only four hours would be spent actually filming... and that was on a good day. On a bad day there would be no filming at all.
Many days of filming were ruined by problems with the shark props. Three full-size mechanical sharks were built for the film at great expense, and one sank to the bottom of the ocean on its first day, forcing a team of divers to retrieve it. All three models frequently malfunctioned due to exposure to salt water, forcing Spielberg (who had initially considered the shark effects to be the film's true star) to work around the issues and only hint at the shark in many scenes. He latered credited the shark problems for the film's suspense, saying "It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen.".
Robert Shaw had taken the role of Quint mainly to pay off his tax debts, and he frequently flew back and forth to Canada from Martha's Vineyard during filming to avoid further attention from the IRS. While said to be pleasant while sober, his frequently drinking on the set brought out his irascible and competitive worst, and he quickly found an enemy in Dreyfuss; Shaw regularly taunted Dreyfuss as cowardly (at one point he dared Dreyfuss to climb to the top of the ship's mast and jump from it) and even sprayed him down with a firehose. Meanwhile, Dreyfuss threw Shaw's drinking glass into the ocean between takes.
The film had been assigned a budget of $4 million, but wound up $5 million over budget for a total of $9 million (that was a lot back in 1974). Filming had fallen over 100 days behind schedule - what was initially meant to be a 55-day shoot ended up at 159 days. Spielberg thought he would never work again, and refused to show up to the final day of filming as he felt that the exhausted and disgruntled crew would throw him in the water as payback for the miserable shootnote how miserable? The scene where Quint, Hooper, and Brody drunkenly sing on the ship made many crew members start crying too, because the song - "show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed" - reflected how they felt.
The original introduction for Quint had him in the local movie theater watching Moby-Dick starring Gregory Peck. Quint was to be sitting at the back of the theater, laughing so loudly at the absurd special effects of the whale that he drove the other viewers to exit the theater. Eventually, Quint would be discovered sitting by himself. Spielberg says that the only thing that stopped him from doing that scene was Peck, who held part of the rights to that movie. When Spielberg approached him for permission to use the footage, Peck turned him down, not because he thought it was a bad idea to use the film that way, but because Peck did not like his performance in the film and did not want the film seen again.
Spielberg considered Charlton Heston for Brody, before deciding that if Heston would have been cast, it signifies to the audience that the shark has virtually no chance against the hero. Robert Duvall was offered the role, but declined, as he was worried the film might make him "too famous". Gene Hackman was also considered.
Spielberg's first choice to play Quint was Lee Marvin, who thanked him but replied that he would rather go fishing. Spielberg then wanted Sterling Hayden, but he was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid tax. Robert Mitchum and Oliver Reed also turned it down.
Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jan-Michael Vincent and Jon Voight were considered for the role of Hooper. Kevin Kline was offered the role and told Spielberg that he knew someone who was an oceanographer and thought he could play one. Spielberg then told him "I don't want someone who knows someone who is an oceanographer, I want someone who is an oceanographer".
Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Richard Dreyfuss famously quipped that filming started without a script, without a cast and without a shark. Carl Gottlieb finished the pages the night before they'd be shot, often taking advantage of whatever Spielberg and the cast thought during dinner.
In 2015, horror author Joe Hill propagated a theory that one of the extras in the July 4th scene might be the Lady of the Dunes, a notorious unidentified murder victim from the area at the time of filming, due to her resemblance to an artist's rendering and wearing a similar-looking bandana. Several others have embraced the theory and hope it might lead to the case being solved, while still more dismiss it as wild speculation.
The Danza: All of the skippers' names are what the actual team members' names are.
Executive Veto: When Halloween Horror Nights returned to the Studios park in 2006, the ride's skippers put together their own script that was more profane and violence-based that they hoped they would be able to use during the event nights. When the employees presented the script to the resort's higher-ups, they rejected it and forced them to stick to the regular script for reasons unknown.
Extended Universe: The employees of the ride made a fan film called The JAWS Ride Movie: Death of Gordon, which serves as a prequel and side story to the ride and set in the reality presented in the show's ride cue. The film introduces us to the ill-fated Gordon who ends up on Amity 3, who originally gets a routine tour but swaps tours with a coworker for a VIP tour so he could get a bigger tip, as well as showing us the "real" Brody, who apparently is having an affair with a coworker at the sheriff's station and everything going on at base during the chaotic shark attack on Amity 6.
Throw It In!: The skipper sometimes will make a slight change to their spiel to poke fun at the reactions of the riders, and there are situations where the skipper will be forced to due some improvising, such as if they accidentally drop the grenade launcher into the water. note Yes, it actually has happened before.
Troubled Production: A rather serious case, as the ride was essentially non-functional when it first opened. It had to be completely shut down and reworked entirely, and it took three years for the ride to finally be opened up again. Universal even sued the people who manufactured the original version of the ride.