18 Things to Look For the Next Time You Watch Jaws

MCA/Universal Home Video
MCA/Universal Home Video

Steven Spielberg invented the modern summer blockbuster with Jaws, and his 1975 great white shark thriller is like nothing before or after it. The director was essentially an unknown at the time, his only theatrical film having been the modestly successful The Sugarland Express. With an estimated production budget of just $7 million, the then-28-year-old turned a horror movie disguised as beachy fun into a box-office sensation that grossed about half a billion dollars worldwide—which makes the recent thriller A Quiet Place look like small potatoes.

What’s most impressive about Jaws today is how gripping it still is, thanks to clever camerawork and editing, as well as Spielberg’s innate understanding that what we don’t see is always more unsettling than what we do. You’ve almost definitely seen Jaws, but if it’s been a while, grab the popcorn and blankets and watch it in a whole new way with these interesting facts and Easter eggs in mind.

1. IT’S AS MUCH JOHN WILLIAMS’S MOVIE AS IT IS STEVEN SPIELBERG’S.

A scene from 'Jaws' (1975)

Jaws is known at least as much for the singular theme music written by composer John Williams as it is for any shot or line. The surprisingly simple arrangement of notes is played during the opening credits and repeated throughout the film, particularly to heighten scenes in which the shark attacks, and it’s impossible to get it out of your head. But when Williams first played the score for Spielberg, the director laughed and said, “That’s funny, John, really. But what did you really have in mind for the theme of Jaws?”

Thankfully, Spielberg was ultimately convinced that the score would work, since Jaws wouldn’t be close to as potent without Williams’s work, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Score. Spielberg and Williams have been tight collaborators ever since.

2. THE FIRST VICTIM IS LEFT HELPLESS WHEN HER PARAMOUR FALLS ASLEEP.

A scene from 'Jaws' (1975)

This movie is not exactly an endorsement of men. Among other things, the shark's first victim—a young woman—falls prey to the giant fish after she meets a guy at a hippie-ish party on the beach. He chases her toward the ocean, where she skinny-dips. He has to ask for her name again even though they’re about to hook up (it’s Chrissie), and as he’s taking off his clothes, he falls asleep! That leaves her alone in the water, where the great white pulls her to her death.

3. THAT WOMAN IS ACTUALLY A STUNTWOMAN.

A scene from 'Jaws' (1975)

The first victim isn’t just a bikini babe in distress. Because of the requirements of the acting gig, Spielberg cast a stuntwoman, Susan Backlinie, who specialized in swimming scenes. If you look closely, it’s pretty obvious she’s being pulled by a rig rather than a sea creature, given the quick, rigid movements. Backlinie was actually fitted with a harness attached to a 300-pound weight, which crew members moved using ropes to drag her through the water.

4. WE WATCH THROUGH THE SHARK’S EYES.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

One of Spielberg’s great formal tricks in Jaws is the use of POV (or point-of-view) shots, in which the audience sees things from the shark’s perspective. An underwater camera stalks the shallow floor of the ocean near the island, approaching soon-to-be victims frolicking in the water. POV shots showing a killer’s vision became a recurring trope in horror movies, especially slashers like John Carpenter’s classic Halloween, which was released three years after Jaws.

5. THERE’S NO AMITY ISLAND.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

The setting for all the human-chomping action is Amity, an idyllic island. In Peter Benchley's original novel, on which the film is based, Amity is located in Long Island, New York. Because of particular production demands, shooting took place on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. It’s probably better for the tourism industry of Martha’s Vineyard that the fictional island remains known as Amity (though the island is clearly proud of its place in film history).

6. THAT’S A REAL WOMAN’S ARM.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

We get our first look at the shark’s damage when police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) comes upon the corpse of the woman killed in the opening. You’d be forgiven for thinking what he sees is just a prop arm dangling out of the sand. In fact, Spielberg decided the prop looked too fake, so he opted to have a female crew member buried in the sand, leaving her arm above the surface.

7. THE MAYOR IS INTOLERABLE FROM THE START.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn intentionally undermines Brody’s investigation into shark attacks so that the town can rake in more money from the summer beach season, leading to more casualties. But it’s his introduction, wearing an obnoxious anchor-print blazer, that signals the character as someone not to be trusted.

8. BRODY FEARS THE WATER, JUST LIKE SPIELBERG.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Brody’s discomfort with the ocean is alluded to throughout the plot, and he refuses to get into the water for most of the film. It’s hard to blame him after watching Jaws. But Spielberg commented on a similar anxiety of his own. “I’m not so much afraid of sharks,” he said of his blockbuster. “I’m afraid of the water and I’m afraid of everything that exists under the water that I can’t see.” That might be why he so often depicts the ocean at night, when it’s at its most murky and unknowable.

9. A KID AND DOG DIE, BUT SOMEHOW JAWS IS RATED PG.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

It’s worth stopping to recognize that two of the first three shark victims are the young Kintner boy and a dog, who’s not seen after fetching a stick. Dog deaths are normally traumatic events reserved for the climaxes of movies, but Spielberg pulled out the big guns early.

10. THAT WAS ONE HARD SLAP.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

One of the more quietly powerful moments involves Brody being confronted and slapped by Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro), the mother of the boy killed by the shark. Fierro had trouble credibly faking a slap, so she used force. Seventeen takes later, Scheider was genuinely hurting.

11. THAT GHOULISH SHOT OF A DEAD MAN WAS A LAST-MINUTE ADDITION.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

After Spielberg felt preview audiences didn’t scream loudly enough at the image of a decomposed head found by Richard Dreyfuss's Matt Hooper, the director decided to reshoot it using his own money. He summoned a crew to editor Verna Field’s swimming pool, and they dumped in a gallon of milk to give the illusion of seawater.

12. WE DON’T SEE THE SHARK UNTIL MORE THAN HALFWAY INTO THE MOVIE.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

The audience gets its first—brief—look at the shark during the Fourth of July weekend, when it kills a boater and pursues Brody’s son in an estuary. Though it looks impressively lifelike, the prop shark was a headache to operate, often failing, which helps explain why Spielberg used it so sparingly.

13. THE SHARK WAS KNOWN AS “BRUCE,” WHICH ALMOST MAKES HIM SOUND CUTE.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Three mechanical sharks subbed in for the man-eater, and were collectively known as Bruce on the set (after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer). That was apparently cuddly enough for a reference in Finding Nemo, which features a great white named Bruce.

14. THE SHARK’S CAUSE OF DEATH IS TEASED MUCH EARLIER.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Few climaxes are as visually glorious and satisfying as watching the shark blown to smithereens at the end of Jaws, thanks to Hooper’s compressed air tank. But the tanks are mentioned well before, when the sea-averse Brody accidentally knocks them over on the ship. Hooper chastises him, warning him that they could explode. What’s not clear is why they don’t use the would-be bombs on the shark much earlier.

15. THE MOST FAMOUS LINE WASN’T IN THE SCRIPT.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Brody is throwing chum into the water and smoking a cigarette when the hungry shark unexpectedly leaps in front of the camera. The startled chief withdraws and tells Robert Shaw’s Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” thereby putting himself in the film history books. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb admitted that the line wasn’t scripted; Scheider improvised it. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, however, since Scheider repeats some version of it two more times.

16. THAT’S A REAL SHOOTING STAR.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

You can’t always plan for the perfect cinematic moment. The shooting star that appears behind Brody as he loads his gun during a night scene on the boat looks magical for a reason: That was nature intervening on the set.

17. HOOPER WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

In the novel, the shark delivers a fatal blow to Hooper when he’s in his cage underwater. (He also sleeps with Brody’s wife, but that’s another matter.) A Jaws crew in Australia captured footage of a real-life great white thrashing an empty cage, however, and Spielberg wanted to use it. So the ending was rewritten.

18. BRODY AND HOOPER INAPPROPRIATELY SHARE A LAUGH AT THE END.

A screen grab from 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Hooper doesn’t emerge from the depths of the water until after Brody has demolished the shark, which is smart thinking on his part. He swims up to Brody and the two immediately share a laugh over their good fortune, while nearly in the same breath Hooper discovers that Quint has just died. It generally goes against decorum to express joy in the early stages of mourning.

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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