When directing “The Teeth of the Sea”, Steven Spielberg only signed “Sugarland Express” for the cinema. Hired by Richard D. Zanuck, the young director arrives on the project to replace a colleague who probably did not understand the concept of the film.
Jaws : no swimming
In the summer of 1975, Steven Spielberg changed the face of the Hollywood industry with Jaws, considered the first summer blockbuster. Shot for around ten million dollars, while the original budget was 2.5 million, the film brought in 470 dollars worldwide. It stands out as the biggest success in the history of cinema, before being dethroned two years later by Star Wars, Episode VI: A New Hope.
Masterpiece having spawned a subgenre, made up of more or less glorious offspring among which Scared, Sharknado or In troubled waters, Jaws reveals an ingenious director who knew how to transform his constraints into cinematographic language. The feature film opens on a beach in the Amity seaside resort, on which a young woman launches into a midnight swim that will be fatal to her.
An introduction that is partly based on the point of view of the shark who attacks her, whose different mechanical versions were working very poorly, as well as on the two genius and oppressive notes of John Williams. After the discovery of the body, Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to ban the beaches to bathers while waiting to learn more about the circumstances of the death. But Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) dissuades him, not wanting to scare tourists away for the July 4th celebrations. A disastrous decision. To try to stop the shark, Brody can still count on the help of oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and hunter Bart Quint (Robert Shaw).
A grueling shoot for Steven Spielberg
Budget explosion, accumulated delays, tensions between Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw regularly drunk, the unforeseen sinking of the Orca … Jaws is a real ordeal for Steven Spielberg. While it is only his second film for the cinema after Sugarland Express, the young director thinks during the shooting that he has no future in hollywood. Subsequently, he will declare in particular:
I thought my career as a filmmaker was over.
But the adaptation of the eponymous novel by Peter Benchley thus becomes a huge success. If he encounters in the years that follow other failures such as 1941, the name of Steven Spielberg becomes definitely essential thanks to The Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET, the alien.
A shark or a whale?
Originally, Steven Spielberg was not the first choice of producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown. They first hire Dick Richards, director ofGoodbye my pretty and Once upon a time … the Legion, who then only signed the western Dust, sweat and powder.
The filmmaker is nevertheless fired after a lunch during which he suggests that he has not grasp the nature of the threat in Jaws. As the producer Mike Medavoy – who submits the idea of an adaptation to Zanuck – tells it in the book You’re Only as Good as Your Next One, Dick Richards would have presented his vision of the feature film in this way during the meal:
The film begins. We are in a quiet fishing village. The inhabitants go about their business. The camera stretches across the water and suddenly a giant whale springs out of nowhere.
Beyond the fact that this introduction does not really play on the art of suggestion, the term “whale” makes Richard D. Zanuck tick. The producer repeatedly tells Dick Richards that it is a shark. In vain. The director continues to conjure up a whale, which increasingly bothers writer Peter Benchley, who chases the Martinis in disarray at the table. Zanuck then had Richards fired and replaced him with Steven Spielberg. The sequence of events has since entered the annals.