Jaws actor Richard Dreyfuss thinks the classic shark thriller should be re-released with a CGI shark in place of the movie’s notoriously awful-looking mechanical beast. Upon its release in 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws became a sensation on its way to grossing a then-astonishing $260 million domestically (which translates to $1.187 billion when adjusted for ticket price inflation).
But before the movie’s release to enthusiastic audiences, few in Hollywood believed the thriller had much of a chance to succeed. The film was plagued by all sorts of production issues, not the least of which was the clunkiness of the mechanical shark (nicknamed “Bruce”) that was created to menace the movie’s stars. As a result of the shark’s fake-ness, Spielberg elected to minimize its on-screen presence and instead use indirect methods to create thrills. Many would argue the movie became more terrifying as a result of Spielberg’s technique to overcome the limitations of his shark.
Though Jaws is still considered a classic today, the movie’s dated special effects – and especially that fake-looking shark, which still gets plenty of screen time despite Spielberg trying to keep it hidden – arguably stand in the way of younger audiences embracing the film. Now one of the movie’s stars, Richard Dreyfuss, is calling for modern-day VFX experts to step in and remedy the Jaws mechanical shark problem. Speaking to Deadline, Dreyfuss said he supports CGI being used to replace the fake shark with a more convincing beast, so that younger audiences can see the film and fully appreciate what it has to offer. Dreyfuss said:
“I think they should do it, it would be huge and it would open up the film to younger people. 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.”
Indeed, Jaws is much more than just a movie about a big, fake shark attacking people. The film also contains some all-time classic performances from stars Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Dreyfuss as the three men charged with killing the shark after it menaces the beaches of Amity at the height of the summer season. Many cite the extended sequence when the three principals hunt down the shark in Quint’s too-small boat as one of the best examples in movie history of characters coming together under pressurized circumstances. Overall, the blockbuster contains some highly praised examples of thriller technique and many point to the film as exemplifying visual storytelling.
Naturally, there are purists who will argue that Jaws is perfect as it is – even with a bad-looking shark – and should be left alone. It’s also fair to wonder if fixing the fake shark problem would be enough by itself to make the movie engaging to younger audiences. Though Jaws certainly has its moments of tension, it also has longer periods where nothing scary is happening and characters are just interacting. The storytelling is not nearly as fast-paced as what audiences have become used to in modern moviemaking, and that may be a turn off. Then again, in recent years, audiences have seemed more willing to embrace horror filmmaking that doesn’t necessarily rely on relentless scares. The success of movies like Hereditary and A Quiet Place might suggest that modern audiences are willing to sit still through movies that feature slow-paced build-ups.
One thing that is certain: sharks are still popular in today’s culture. That was proven again this year with the release of The Meg, a shark movie with state-of-the-art CGI that grossed $142 million domestically. Of course, The Meg is considerably less subtle than Jaws, and is much less reliant on good performances and old-school thriller technique. In the years since Jaws came out, shark movies have generally become a lot cheesier, unfortunately.