Jaws at 45: The Legacy of Spielberg’s Greatest Film

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This week marks 45 years since Jaws burst onto American cinema screens and launched the concept of the summer blockbuster. (Though bizarrely, it was released in the UK in December).

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel stars Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw as the men responsible for dealing with a great white shark that terrorises any resident of Amity Island who dares to step into the ocean. All played out to John Williams’ memorable score.

The film’s production was difficult; it went over budget and over schedule. The three mechanical sharks, nicknamed Bruce, were especially troublesome. However, it was worth the effort, and the finished movie wowed audiences and critics alike, and remains incredibly popular to this day. Indeed, it currently holds a 98% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

To mark the anniversary, FinalBoss spoke to fan Ross Williams about his love for the movie and how that led to him creating thedailyjaws.com

Ross, founder of The Daily Jaws

FinalBoss: Hi Ross, when did you first see Jaws?

Ross Williams: When I was 4/5 years old. It was showing on TV so I stayed up and watched it with my mum.

FB: Can you remember your initial reaction?

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RW: I was exhilarated and wanted to watch it all over again!

FB: What makes it so special?

RW: From a technical standpoint, it’s pretty much perfect even by today’s standards. A textbook of great film making. However, it’s the story and characters that keep people coming back.

FB: I finally got to see Jaws in a cinema last year which was amazing, I assume you’ve done that?

RW: Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to see Jaws on the big screen a few times. It’s an incredible experience I recommend to anyone.

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FB: Any idea how many times you’ve seen it? How often do you watch it?

RW: I’ve seen jaws probably around 500 times. Since running the site, I find myself watching specific parts for info for blogs or to help answer fan questions – but probably last watched it all the way through a month ago.

Quint, Brody and Hooper
Quint, Brody and Hooper

FB: Brody, Hooper and Quint are arguably as iconic a trio as any on film, do you have a favourite of the three?

RW: It changes. When I was young, I LOVED Hooper and his passion/fascination for sharks left an impression on me. But as I’ve grown older I can identify with Brody and Quint more.

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FB: What about the supporting characters?

RW: I really like the Mayor. He’s important to the story (and very relevant to today) and beautifully played with arrogance and vulnerability by a tremendous Murray Hamilton.

FB: Can you tell us some of your favourite bits of the film? Moments, scenes, lines?

RW: Brody and Sean at the dinner table. Such an inspired and human moment we can all relate to but also shows the true stakes of this shark problem not being solved.

Brody, Ellen and Sean at the dinner table
Brody, Ellen and Sean

FB: You must have acquired so much Jaws knowledge over the years, do you have a favourite piece of Jaws trivia?

RW: I think the fact that Steven Spielberg was only 28 when he made Jaws blows my mind.

FB: I’d say Jaws is a good example of a film being better than its source novel. Do you agree and what are your thoughts on Peter Benchley’s book?

RW: They are too different to be genuinely compared. The story and characters, even the ending are totally different. I loved the book. As a first novel, it’s a really strong debut. The characters are a lot harsher and less likeable than in the movie but that makes an interesting conflict.

FB: The success of Jaws led to three sequels. Fair to say they aren’t nearly so well regarded, though I actually quite like 2 and 3, how do you feel about them?

RW: Jaws 2 is a good movie. It must have been very hard to go into making a sequel to one of the most critically and commercially successful films of all time. It was great to have Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton reprise their roles. But the story was changed to suit the teen slasher trend of the late 70s. I would have loved to have seen the original director John Hancock deliver his vision.

Jaws 3 & 4 take the action away from Amity which is understandable to keep things fresh and the idea of using SeaWorld (Jaws 3) was inspired. But they forgot the golden rules: less shark, more character.

FB: It also inspired a whole lot of other shark movies; from Deep Blue Sea to Open Water to Sharknado. Do shark movies generally appeal to you? Do you seek them out? Any favourites?

Shark in the surf
The Shallows

RW: I’m interested in shark movies from a technical point of view. How will the shark look and behave? Have the filmmakers done their research etc? The Shallows is my fav. Tight story. Realistic premise and a great shark.

FB: Steven Spielberg was progressing nicely before Jaws, but this sent him to another level, has he ever bettered it? Or come close?

RW: The man is a genius. But Jaws is a very important movie for his legacy. It was his announcement of his talent and ability to change cinema. He’s a very unusual filmmaker – he can do human stories (Schindler’s List) and the popcorn blockbusters (Ready Player One) with equal skill and quality.

Brody and the great white shark

FB: Do you collect Jaws merchandise and memorabilia? Any special pieces that stand out?

RW: I don’t have a huge collection but I love what I have. But my books and my 25 inch Bruce replica (which I only got 2 weeks ago) takes pride of place on my desk.

FB: How did your love for the film become The Daily Jaws?

RW: It was approaching the 40 anniversary of the film (2015) and I was looking for something to follow that would be sharing the latest news etc and didn’t really find anything I liked so thought screw it, I’ll do something myself. And it took off!

FB: You’ve been going for 5 years now, how has the site grown and evolved in that time?

RW: The social media audience has grown to over 70k and we had over 100k unique visitors to thedailyjaws.com in 2019. We are seen as a credible news source when it comes to Jaws which I am especially proud of. We’ve been quoted and referenced by some of the largest news organisations in the world.

FB: How hard is it to keep fresh and come up with new ideas about something that’s now 45 years old?

RW: It’s not hard when you love it. My chief writer Dean and I are constantly coming up with ideas and the Jaws community is amazing! So active and are always pointing out new things for us to talk about.

FB: Any specific plans in place for future development?

RW: We do have some ambitious stuff coming but we are keeping it under out bad hats for now!

FB: Nice! Thank you so much for chatting with us.

Following our interview, The Daily Jaws unveiled plans for WeMakeJaws, a project encouraging fans to recreate scenes in their homes. Ross said “Jaws turns 45 this year, so it is a huge milestone. We know there are lots of Jaws fans out there and we thought that being part of a global WeMake in the safety of their own homes during a global pandemic would help unite us all with our common love of all things Jaws. It’s a universal situation and Jaws is a Universal film. Literally.”

You can find more from Ross and his team at thedailyjaws.com or give them a follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.

For its 45th anniversary, Jaws is now available in 4K

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Love Jaws? Listen to the latest episode of our podcast BossCast which is a Jaws special.

If you liked this article, please consider checking out more of our movie coverage!

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