- Steven Spielberg reveals a near-fatal incident that occurred during the filming of Jaws when the boat sank due to a speedboat pulling too fast.
- Jaws faced numerous production problems, including malfunctioning mechanical sharks and damage to camera equipment from saltwater.
- Despite the challenges, Spielberg’s commitment to authentic ocean filming with life-size sharks created a visually compelling and dangerous experience for audiences.
Steven Spielberg details a near-deadly boating incident that occurred while filming Jaws. Released in 1975, the famous film follows Roy Scheider’s police chief, Richard Dreyfuss’ marine biologist, and Robert Shaw’s eccentric seafarer hunting down a great white shark on a boat called the Orca. Though Jaws was one of the most successful films of all time and a watershed moment for the summer blockbuster, it wasn’t without problems during its production process.
During a recent interview with Vanity Fair, the director detailed a near-deadly incident due to a boating mishap that occurred while filming Jaws. Spielberg says the issue occurred because a speedboat was pulling the Orca too fast, which pulled out the planking and allowed water to rush in and sink the boat in two minutes. Meanwhile, the cast and crew were both on board begging for lifeboats. Read how Spielberg recalled the incident below:
A problem we had was when a speedboat pulling the Orca went too fast and pulled out the planking from the haul—water rushed in, and the boat sank in about two minutes. I remember vividly the moment where the actors were yelling, “Send boats, get us out, send boats!” Our sound mixer John Carter—who shared an Oscar with his team for Jaws—picked up the Nagra recorder, held it over his head, and said, “Fuck the actors, save the sound department!” I have this image to this day of John sinking holding his recorder with water up to his ankles, and then to his knees, while crews on boats were scrambling to pull everybody off the sinking Orca. Months later, he was holding an Oscar in those hands!
Jaws’ Troubled Production Explained
The Orca sinking with both the cast and crew on board wasn’t the only problem that Jaws faced during its infamously troubled production. Jaws was the first movie to ever shoot on the ocean and in turn, experienced an array of issues that caused production to go way over budget and schedule. The main issue was the movie’s mechanical sharks which frequently malfunctioned due to bad weather and the effects of salt water. These issues are estimated to have cost production an additional $3 million, a third of the movie’s total $9 million budget.
The movie’s malfunctioning mechanical sharks aside, shooting at sea posed many problems for production. The camera equipment was seriously damaged by seawater, other boats often drifted into shots, and the cast and crew were frequently seasick and sunburned. However, Spielberg’s commitment to shooting at sea with life-size mechanical sharks, as opposed to an indoor tank or using CGI, is what made Jaws visually compelling and created a real sense of danger for the audience.
Source: Vanity Fair