Here’s What Happened to the Cast (and Shark) of ‘Jaws’ Before, During and After Making the Classic Film

Next month — June 20 to be exact — will mark 45 years since director Steven Spielberg unleashed his adaptation of Peter Benchley’s Jaws on the world. While the film itself focused on the efforts of Amity police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and World War II vet (with a genuine shark vendetta) Quint (Robert Shaw) to hunt down and capture a great white terrorizing the area, what it really did was scare the hell out of the audience, chased them out of the oceans that summer and introduced the concept of the movie blockbuster.

The brilliance of Jaws, produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown, is that while on the surface it seems like a horror movie, the engine driving it is the (oftentimes adversarial) relationship between those three characters, who couldn’t be more different from each other yet somehow manage to connect to tackle this threat — with less than happy results. And for Spielberg, the highlight of production was working with those actors, a point driven home by the sequence in the film where all three of them are on Quint’s boat during a bit of a lull in their pursuit of the shark, and they’re drinking. At one point, Quint reflects on his experiences (based on the truth) during World War II aboard the battleship Indianapolis, which, after having secretly delivered the Hiroshima atomic bomb, is attacked and sunk by the Japanese. As the ship sinks, the crewmen jump into the water, but, unfortunately, their mission is so secret that it takes four days for anyone to get to them. During that time, hundreds of them were attacked and devoured by sharks. Quint himself barely escaped.

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Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

“We shot it twice,” Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly. “The first time we attempted to shoot it, Robert came to me 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 actually let me have a few drinks before I do the speech.’ And I unwisely gave him permission. I guess he had more than a few drinks, because two crew members actually had to carry him onto the Orca and help him into his chair. We never got through the scene.”

At about 2:00 a.m., he received a phone call from Shaw apologizing profusely and admitting he had no memory of what had happened. He pled for the opportunity to do it again, which, of course, Spielberg granted. “I said, ‘Yes, the second you’re ready, we’ll do it again.’ The next morning, he came to the set and he was ready at 7:30 and out of make-up and it was like watching Olivier on stage. We did it in probably four takes. I think we were all watching a great performance and the actors on camera were watching a great performance; Roy and Richard.”

To celebrate the performances of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw and, of course, Bruce the mechanical shark (with honorable mention to other costars), what follows is a look at their lives and careers before and after the making of the film.

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