Jaws co-star Richard Dreyfuss says the 1975 mega-hit could make an even bigger boatload of money if it was re-released today — all it would require is a digital-effects team and a killer makeover for the film’s infamously clunky mechanical shark.
“I think they should do it, it would be huge and it would open up the film to younger people,” Dreyfuss said when Deadline floated the idea. “Is that blasphemy? No, no, I don’t think so. The technology now could make the shark look as good as the rest of the movie.”
When Jaws hit theaters it was a monster success like no other. The shark tale was based on the 1974 namesake novel by Peter Benchley and it seized the imagination of the nation. The movie broke box-office records, ushered in the Hollywood era of summer blockbusters, spawned three sequels and minted the career of a young filmmaker named Steven Spielberg.
The filming of the movie, however, was a logistical nightmare for the 27-year-old Spielberg, who likely wondered if his second feature film (after 1974’s Sugarland Express) would also be his last. The primary issue was a balky mechanical shark (nicknamed Bruce) that was (quite literally) sinking the production. The planned 55-day shoot became a 159-day salt-water slog that doubled the movie’s planned $7 million budget.
It was a sink-or-swim moment for Spielberg and he responded by delivering a classic through his resourcefulness and budding cinematic instincts. For most of the film’s 132-minute running time, for instance, the shark is suggested more than seen. The camera was used to show the shark’s point-of-view, too, a tactic that found a powerful complement in the now-legendary score by John Williams.
Still, Bruce ended up with plenty of screen time in the film’s final act. The audiences of 1975 were mostly forgiving but the clunky fake fish did inspire some giggles (and parodies, such as the Land Shark skits on Saturday Night Live). Today’s moviegoers, weaned on digital wizardry (some of it in Spielberg’s other later classics, such as Jurassic Park) often laugh out loud when they see old Bruce’s hinged jaws in action.
Today’s movie fans would find the classic thriller far more relevant if it were “brought to life” with a digital reincarnation, said Dreyfuss, the 70-year-old Oscar winner who spoke to Deadline at this year’s Catalina Film Festival. The actor known for Mr Holland’s Opus, The Goodbye Girl and What About Bob? was honored this past weekend with the festival’s Stanley Kramer Social Artist Award.
“There are people who say Jaws is a perfect film otherwise and it is amazing what Steven accomplished with the challenges he had,” Dreyfuss said. “But you’re dead-right, I think you’re on to something. They should put the money in to CGI [to replace] that beast and make it come alive.”