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They needed a scuba-diving midget. Exactly why was a secret. “We wanted to keep that,” says Director Steven Spielberg, “for the sapper.”

The casting call specified that the midget ought also to have had some experience doing stunt work. At his office in Universal Studios, Spielberg interviewed anyone with this curious combination of credentials. Then Carl Rizzo walked in.

At 4 ft. 11 in., Rizzo is not a full-fledged midget. But he did have stunt experience. And when he arrived in the office, his face was covered with blood. He explained that rushing to the interview, he had got into a car accident outside the studio gate. Rizzo got the job in Jaws on the spot.

He was dispatched to the township of Port Lincoln, 170 miles west of Adelaide, Australia. From there he was to sail 20 miles out into the gulf in company of Underwater Photographers Ron and Valerie Taylor and be lowered over the side of a ship in a special steel mesh cage. Rizzo’s role, doubling for one of the film’s leading actors, was simply to persevere while a great white shark tried to trash him.

Since the real shark is about 16 ft. long, and the fictional great white in Jaws no less than 24, Rizzo’s diminutive height would make the real fish look bigger. Rizzo understood all this. He did not count, however, on the fervor of the great white. Beginning his first descent, he watched one shark attack the Taylors’ boat. Vexed, it sideswiped Rizzo, ripped his cage from its cable and took it to the bottom. Carl shot out of the water and headed for cover.

His dilemma and his eminently rational response would win anyone’s sympathy. But this summer, movie audiences may find themselves sharing a taste of his terror. Unlike Carl, most spectators will surrender willingly to the sea monster. Unlike Carl, too, most will probably want to see more of its tantrums.

Jaws, which opens in 490 theaters this week, is part of a bracing revival of high adventure films and thrillers over the past few months (see box page 44). It is expensive ($8 million), elaborate, technically intricate and wonderfully crafted, a movie whose every shock is a devastating surprise. Like Earthquake, it takes a panic-producing disaster and shows how a representative cross section of humanity responds to it. Like The Exorcist, it deals with an essentially unknowable, therefore unpredictable and thoroughly spooky symbol of evil. Jaws promises to hit right in the old collective unconscious and to draw millions irresistibly to the box office. Start a mass-medium migration like that, its producers hope, and millions more will turn out just to see what all the excitement is about. After that, as they say in the trade, “through the roof.”

What sets Jaws apart from most of the other ceiling busters and makes it a special case, like The Godfather, is that it is quite a good movie. For one thing, it is mercifully free of the padding—cosmic, comic, cultural—that so often mars “big” pictures. In that sense, the movie is very like its subject. If the great white shark that terrorizes the beaches of an island summer colony is one of nature’s most efficient killing machines, Jaws is an efficient entertainment machine.

Partly this is due to a shrewd adaptation. Peter Benchley’s novel spent too much time on dry land, plodding around Irving Wallace country, reinvestigating such tired phenomena as the uneasy marriage, the adulterous wife, the snaky seducer. In the movie, most of this lallygagging is eliminated. Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) must still fight the town’s mayor, who is fearful that closing the beaches after the first shark attacks will ruin his resort’s economy. He still joins forces with Quint, the professional shark killer (Robert Shaw, employing an ornate accent of indeterminate origin), and a youthful ichthyologist named Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), all theory and wisecracks. Scheider is occasionally too recessive for his own good, while Shaw is too excessive for the good of the film. Dreyfuss, however, is perfect. With a cheeky charm he manages to humanize the picture while stealing it.

This perfectly ill-assorted trio sets out in the Orca, Quint’s leaky craft, to bring the marauding great white to his reward. Ideal adversary that he is, the shark proves stronger and more wily than anyone suspected. The men go after him with rifles. They try to slow him down with barrels, fight him, tire him, tow him. In desperation Hooper descends below the surface in a shark cage (the sequence for which Carl Rizzo was hired), armed with a poison gun that will get the job done—if he can shoot it directly into the creature’s mouth. The shark is not daunted by any of this, but his fury increases. The final battle is literally explosive.

Jaws contains classic sequences of suspense. In the first shark attacks—on a skinny-dipping adolescent and a little boy bobbing serenely on his air mattress —the audience is in possession of information the characters do not have. It knows the danger but cannot shout effective warning to the innocents on the screen. This is Hitchcock technique in a context the master has never explored. Steven Spielberg, 27, one of the top young directors around, is no Hitchcock yet by a long shot. For one thing, his characters lack the quirks and little guilts that make Hitchcock’s creations stay in the memory. Spielberg works self-effacingly, with subtly correct camera placement and meticulous editing. He twists our guts with false alarms, giving us the real thing with heart-stopping suddenness. Spielberg is confident not only of his material but also of the virtues of simple, straightforward moviemaking. His attitude toward frenzy is reserved and objective. His is a rather oldfashioned, very American way of making a movie.

The making of a movie on the scale of Jaws, however, is a case study in the recklessness, stubbornness, blindness and bravado that go into a Hollywood superproduction. Like many extravaganzas before it, Jaws courted its own calamities. It is an unnatural law of film making that the larger the budget and the longer the shooting schedule, the closer the movie comes to the edge of catastrophe. Jaws flirted with disaster on land and water, in front of the cameras and behind. At one time or another, the film makers did battle with a recalcitrant mechanical shark, intrepid sailors and high-living yachtsmen, larcenous townspeople, tourists who were both curious about the movie and miffed that their vacations were being disrupted, striking labor unions and, inevitably, the elements. Spielberg says now, “Jaws should never have been made. It was an impossible effort.”

One thing that kept anguished executives from shutting everything down and restaging the movie in the studio tank was that they were backing an adaptation of a proven commodity, a best-seller of numbing durability. There are over 5½ million copies of Jaws in print. Producer Richard (son of Darryl) Zanuck and his partner David Brown paid $175,000 for the movie rights and a Benchley script.

The war began with the script. There were five in all. Benchley (grandson of Humorist Robert Benchley) says he “lost the ego problem” after completion of the second. He wrote a third draft, which was subsequently reworked by such diverse hands as Playwright Howard Sackler (The Great White Hope), Director John Milius (The Wind and the Lion) and Carl Gottlieb, an actor who had played improvisational comedy with the California-based troupe, The Committee, and who had a small role in the film. The last version was rejiggered nightly out on location.

While Benchley was still trying to whip his screenplay into workable form, Production Designer Joe Alves was dispatched to the East to find a location for the fictional village of Amity. The Hamptons were considered and rejected as “too opulent” before Alves, en route to Nantucket, took a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard instead. The island had handsome houses and stark, scrub-pine shore vistas. It boasted a handy harbor with the sort of 180° view of the horizon, all uninterrupted, that Spielberg was looking for. Alves thought the Vineyard was perfect for Jaws. The residents, however, were not so sure.

Pointedly suspicious of outsiders (roughly defined as anyone whose birth certificate is not on file at the local hospital), some Islanders suspected that Hollywood interlopers would wreck their tranquillity, ruin the tourist season and befoul their waters. Others pointed out that a film crew of 150 or so would pep up business considerably during a recession offseason. So the Islanders settled back to watch events with skepticism.

Spielberg and his three leading actors had all congregated by May 2 with a ten-week shooting schedule and a script that was still unfinished. The quartet were alike only in that none of them really knew what they were in for.

>Steven Spielberg was all of 26 when he was hired. At the age of 16, he had made a 2½-hour feature for $500, partly bankrolled by his father, a computer executive. Young Spielberg premiered this maiden effort—a sci-fi monster flick—in his home town of Phoenix with all the trimmings, including limousines and klieg lights raking the sky. By 20, he was in college just outside Los Angeles and had bluffed his way onto the Universal lot, where he hung around movie sets “until I got thrown off. Hitchcock, Franklin Schaffner, I was bounced by the best Universal had to offer.”

He was back at Universal months later, on the strength of a student film that had caught the eye of one of the executives. For the next four years, Spielberg directed television: episodes of Marcus Welby, Columbo, The Psychiatrist and a Movie of the Week called Duel, which amply demonstrated his talents. A chilling little tale of a motorist pursued through the Southwest by a semi whose driver is never seen, Duel got Spielberg his first feature, The Sugarland Express. It was a movie with the sort of brio and elaborate technical command that made Spielberg, in the producers’ view, just the man for Jaws. “I wanted to do Jaws for hostile reasons,” said Spielberg. “I read it and felt that I had been attacked. It terrified me, and I wanted to strike back.”

> Robert Shaw, 48, had a cooler opinion of the project. “Jaws was not a novel,” he says. “It was a story written by a committee, a piece of shit.” He was not inclined to take the part until his late wife, Actress Mary Ure, and his secretary both had a long look at the script and urged him on. “The last time they were that enthusiastic was From Russia With Love,” recalls Shaw, who played the slow-thinking, fast-moving hit man in that Bond epic. “And they were right then. So I took the part.”

Although Shaw has appeared in over two dozen movies (he was the conned con man in The Sting), the theater is his true territory. A graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he starred in The Royal Hunt of the Sun and, on Broadway, in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker and Old Times. Pinter returned the compliment by directing The Man in the Glass Booth, a play Shaw adapted from one of his own five novels. For all this, Shaw still resents what he calls “the English snobbishness about the superiority of acting onstage.” He likes the challenge of building .a character on film, “where very often you have to make bricks out of straw.”

> Roy Scheider, 39, got an Oscar nomination for playing Gene Hackman’s buddy in The French Connection. The role in Jaws gave him a shot at shaking the sidekick image that had attached itself since then. A solid, working New York actor who did time with Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival and the Lincoln Center Repertory, Scheider keeps his roots firmly in the East. He has a farm in upstate New York and a part interest in Joe Allen’s, an actors’ hangout near Broadway.

A former Golden Gloves boxer —his battered nose a prominent record of his teen-age ring career —Scheider proved to be the steadiest member of the troupe. When tempers frayed and gloom hung heavy over the production, Scheider usually just tuned out and worked on his suntan.

> Richard Dreyfuss, 26, took his part “with misgivings.” He had dark suspicions, in fact, that Jaws would turn out to be “the turkey of the year.” Boyish, eternally energized, Dreyfuss likes to talk politics. He registered as a C.O. during the Viet Nam War, and seasons his conversation with references to George Orwell and Richard Hofstadter.

Dreyfuss started acting at the age of eleven, playing Theodore Herzl at the West Side Jewish Center in Los Angeles. He became a recognizable movie personality in American Graffiti and a major film actor in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. While the filming of Jaws wound on, Dreyfuss would cry in mock frustration, “What am I doing out in the middle of the goddam ocean when I could be back in civilization, making personal appearances?”

While the cast assembled, the only integral member of the Jaws unit still back in California was Special Effects Whiz Bob Mattey. He was building a 24-ft. great white shark that would be required to surface, swim, submerge, snap its jaws, thrash its tail, roll its eyes and gobble up Robert Shaw. Usually movie monsters get to work under the most pristine studio conditions. Mattey’s great white not only had to behave like the real thing but also had to work in a shark’s habitat. Imagine King Kong tramping down Fifth Avenue and shin-nying up the Empire State Building, and the problems become a little clearer.

Real sharks were also required. Live ones were intercut with Mattey’s creation for added verisimilitude. A dead one was needed to play the shark the townspeople thought was the killer. Some local fishermen promised they could provide the genuine article. After several fruitless days —at a daily wage of $100—the anglers came up with unsuitable catches. Frantic, the film company sent to Florida, and a 13-ft. tiger shark was flown up, packed in ice like a gourmet CARE package. The imported fish hung from a hook on the Edgartown dock for four days, sending up such a powerful stench in the hot sun that it quickly lost much of its curiosity value. Some townsfolk reciprocated later by depositing on Canuck and Brown’s doorstep the moldering carcasses of sharks from local waters.

The film company was also afflicted by theft. Scavengers kept stealing everything from nylon line to generators. The social life offered little relief. In the summer the Vineyard draws a large crowd of bankers, lawyers and literary figures; they felt free to ask endless questions on the assumption that the movie folk had a great deal to answer for. Investment bankers who earned $400,000 a year wanted to know how much they could make as extras. Spielberg was continually asked how come he was so young. The producers also dodged questions about the workings of the mechanical shark, whose arrival was imminent.

There were, in fact, three of Matley’s mechanical marvels, collectively christened Bruce. Each was made largely of plastic, weighed 1½ tons and cost about $150,000. Although built for different purposes—one for left-to-right movements, another for right-to-left movements, a third for underwater scenes—each was similarly operated by hydraulic pistons and compressed air. “There were no polluting fuels used,” said Mattey, in a gesture to the ecology. He and 20 assistants finished assembling the Bruces while Spielberg completed all the sequences that called for dry land.

Bruce was fairly programmed for mishap. In order to use him, a twelve-ton steel platform, to which the mechanical shark was attached by a 100-ft.-long umbilical cable, had to be sunk to the ocean floor. The controls on the platform were operated by 13 technicians wearing scuba equipment.

Bruce sank when he made his debut. During his second test on water his hydraulic system exploded. “That shark,” says Producer Brown, “was like owning a yacht. We had to dredge a place for it to rest, we had to park it, guard it, stroke it, hide it from the public.” A special makeup man in scuba gear would plunge into the ocean to add more blood to Bruce’s teeth and gums or administer a touch-up to his tender plastic tissue. Bruce’s skin tended to discolor and deteriorate in the salt water.

When Bruce finally revved up with enough style and conviction to shoot a short scene, the results were not initially impressive. Director Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise), a buddy of Spielberg’s, visited the Vineyard and saw the director trudging out from watching Bruce’s first rushes. “It was like a wake,” recalls De Palma. “Bruce’s eyes crossed, and his jaws wouldn’t close right.” There was a long moment of hopeless silence, broken finally by Richard Dreyfuss. “If any of us had any sense,” he said, “we’d all bail out now.”

Everybody stayed. Mattey and his assistants made adjustments. Each day, a flotilla of small craft from the company would set out to sea. Bruce required a whole vessel to himself and another for the men who handled his controls. There were additional boats for the camera crew and the actors, supply boats, an old ferry from Chappaquiddick. They made the journey six days a week, through the summer and into autumn. Some days they would come back with no film at all. The daily departure began to look like a cortege.

“The ocean,” Spielberg says, “was a real pain in the ass.” While the technical crew scurried about under water, the director and his company waited out the vagaries of tide topside. “With all the planning we did,” Spielberg recalls, “nobody thought much about the currents or anything at all about the waves.” A strong current would cause equipment boats to drift away. Water color would change, the rhythm of the waves would fluctuate. “I could have shot the movie in the tank,” Spielberg says, “or even in a protected lake somewhere, but it would not have looked the same.”

At least he would have been spared the sailboats. When Production Designer Alves first saw and admired the Vineyard’s uninterrupted horizon line, it was winter. By the time Spielberg took to the water, it was July 1; the Vineyard is one of the most popular ports in the Northeast. Small craft sailed within feet of the camera, sometimes interrupting shots.

Between weekend outings and formal regattas, sails swamped the solitude integral to the suspense of the last third of the film. Back at Universal City, executives fretting about the budget suggested that the boats be written into the action. “We couldn’t do it,” Spielberg says. “You have three guys out in a rickety boat, hunting a killer shark. What kind of menace is there going to be if there is a family of four only 50 feet away, having a picnic on their sailboat?”

A sort of anxious resignation set in. A scene that looked relatively simple laid out on the director’s storyboard, one that called only for Bruce to negotiate a left turn, might take two days to shoot. To combat ennui, Spielberg and Dreyfuss would sing comedy songs by Stan Freberg, a hero of their teen-age years. Spielberg also had a primitive projection room constructed on one of the boats. “Universal had only two films they could send us from their Boston office,” Spielberg recalls. “We watched Ma and Pa Kettle On the Farm a lot.”

Dreyfuss amused himself by dating up any available women who happened to sail by. Duddy Kravitz had just opened to excellent reviews, and apparently everyone on the island had seen American Graffiti. Dreyfuss stood ready to enjoy all the perks of movie stardom, and would seize an assistant director’s megaphone to pitch woo across the water. “You know why I get so many dates?” he told the envious Spielberg. “Because I have a 40-ft. face.”

The monotony and the impatience sometimes caused accidents. Carl Gottlieb fell overboard and was nearly decapitated by the boat’s propellers. About to duplicate Rizzo’s feat—minus the presence of real sharks—Dreyfuss was almost imprisoned in his cage. Wearing a steel-and-leather corset for protection, Shaw spent two days being ingested by Bruce. Roy Scheider took no chances for his own moment of truth, which was to take place in the cabin of the sinking ship. He kept his own hammers and axes close at hand in case the effects men did not move fast enough.

By the time these last scenes were shot in October, the movie was 100% over budget and over schedule. With a month of additional filming in the Pacific still ahead of him, Spielberg left the Vineyard for the first time in almost half a year. Many members of the cast and crew had taken holidays off the island, but Spielberg had stayed behind. “I was afraid if I’d left,” he says now, “I never would have gone back.” After the last day of Jaws shooting on the Vineyard, Spielberg climbed into a boat and headed for the mainland, shouting to cast and crew like a still bold but newly wise commander, “I shall not return!”

As edited by Spielberg and the remarkable Verna Fields (who also cut American Graffiti and The Last Picture Show), everything finally paid off. “If you look carefully,” Fields points out, “you will see blue sky in one segment of a scene, cloudy sky in another, choppy seas in one scene, glassy in another.” No one will feel detached enough to notice. The movie moves like gang busters, so fast that none of the mismatches really show. Even Bruce looks like a star. “Except when he heaved himself out of the water—when he had a plastic look —I was quite surprised by how genuine he seemed,” confessed Documentary Film Maker Peter Gimbel, who was familiar with the real thing from his own film, Blue Water, White Death.

Like all the best thrillers—with which this movie is good enough to keep company—Jaws relies on both the immediacy of illusion and the safety it provides. The menace so cunningly created and enlarged comes close enough to have caused loud screams and small tremors of terror at pre-release screenings. Yet Jaws is vicarious, not vicious, a fantasy far more than an assault. It is a dread dream that weds the viewer’s own apprehensions with the survival of the heroes. It puts everyone in harm’s way and brings the audience back alive. And in Jaws, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

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