Steven Spielberg Remembers His Jaws Secrets



Over the weekend, Jaws celebrated its 40th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, Entertainment Weekly interviewed director Steven Spielberg about his memories of a uniquely troubled production—that resulted in a timeless movie classic.

Insisting on the sea

According to Spielberg, most of the problems on the shoot were a result of his single best decision: shooting on the sea. “Had we shot on the tank I don’t think Jaws would have been very successful, because it would look really phony. I really insisted on the sea, but innumerable problems… physical problems, came along with my decision.”

A good start

While Jaws is famous for its production woes, Spielberg insists that the shoot got off to a surprisingly smooth start. “I was confident for the first 35 days of shooting because I was on schedule for the first 35 days. It was all the land stuff.”

Losing control

Once Spielberg started shooting on the water, everything fell apart, resulting in a phenomenon the director has only experienced once in his storied career. “I had lost control of the production. I have never lost control of a production before, and not since either.”

Avoiding the ax

Things got so bad during the shoot that Spielberg was very nearly fired. In the end, he only managed to keep his job because studio executive Sid Sheinberg also happened to be his mentor. “I think Sid Sheinberg always blocked the intention of Ned Tanen to fire me. He wanted me fired. [Producers] Dick Zanuck and David Brown always told me that the other shoe was about to drop.”

Squeezing Styrofoam

There was at least one major conflict on the set that didn’t involve Spielberg: the feud between Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. Their dynamic made such an impression on the director that he incorporated moments of their interaction into the film. “We started adding scenes based on how Robert and Richard were behind the scenes! We started putting some of those anecdotes into the actual film. Matt Hooper’s squeezing of the Styrofoam cup in answer to Shaw’s squeezing of the beer can was something that actually happened.”