Jaws is not only famous for being the defining summer blockbuster, it’s also widely considered one of the greatest movies of all time. As a result, everyone has been made privy to many details about its production. You probably know that it went well over budget and that the mechanical shark continually malfunctioned. But there are probably a few details about the making of this mega-flick that you may have missed. Here are six lesser-known facts about Jaws…
1. The movie’s most famous line was ad-libbed
It’s not until well into Jaws that the viewer gets a good look at the giant great white: While chumming the waters on the Orca, Brody (Roy Scheider) is surprised by the man-eater who surfaces to grab some grub. In Brody’s shock, he wryly utters to captain Quint (Robert Shaw) the iconic line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” without dropping the cigarette from his lips. Writer Carl Gottlieb insists the line was not scripted, but improvised on the spot by Roy Scheider.
2. Director Steven Spielberg originally laughed at the Jaws theme
The first time John Williams played the score for Spielberg, the director laughingly said, “That’s funny, John, really. But what did you really have in mind for the theme of Jaws?” The theme went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Spielberg later reflected that without Williams’s ominous score, the movie would have been half as successful.
3. Real human parts were used as remains
While shooting the scene in which the severed limb of the first victim is found, Spielberg thought that a prop arm looked too fake and decided to use a real human one. They buried a female crew member in the sand, leaving only her arm exposed. To get the crabs to move over the arm, the prop master poured hot coffee on them.
4. Roy Scheider was slapped repeatedly on set
Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner) wasn’t able to realistically fake a slap, so in the scene where she slapped Brody, she really hit him. The scene took seventeen takes to perfect. Roy Scheider (Brody) stated in an interview that the scene was one of the most painful of his career. During one take she slapped him so hard his glasses fell off.
5. Spielberg re-shot a scene in a swimming pool
Believing the preview audience’s screams to not be loud enough during the scuba diving scene where the shark victim’s head appears through the boat, Spielberg re-shot the sequence in Jaws‘s editor Verna Field’s swimming pool. Paying for the shoot himself, he assembled a crew and used a gallon of milk to give the backyard swimming pool the murky look of the waters around Martha’s Vineyard (where the rest of Jaws was filmed).
6. Hooper was originally killed by the shark
In Peter Benchley’s novel that inspired the film, Hooper’s story is drastically different. Hooper has an affair with Brody’s wife and later, while in the shark cage, Hooper is killed off by the great white. Because many considered the relationship a ploy to make the novel more racy, it was dropped from the final version of the script — and Hooper was not killed off as a result.