The Bizarre Tale of the Orca II, the Stunt Boat from Jaws

Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Lynn and Susan Murphy
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Lynn and Susan Murphy

In nautical circles, building a boat that proceeds to sink an astonishing 24 times would be considered a disaster. For the purposes of the crew tasked with filming 1975’s shark thriller Jaws, it meant they had done their job.

In an era before computer effects, director Steven Spielberg and production designer Joe Alves wanted their adaptation of the Peter Benchley novel—about a shark that terrorizes the tourist hub of Amity Island—to feel authentic. That meant shooting on location at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where they spent five agonizing months putting actors and several malfunctioning mechanical sharks in the water. Often, those scenes would be centered around the Orca, the fictitious shark-hunting boat manned by salty seaman Quint (Robert Shaw). For shots where the 42-foot Orca was assaulted by the atypically aggressive shark, Alves and his team substituted the functioning boat for the Orca II, a near-exact duplicate that had no motor but could sink on command. It’s the Orca II that takes up most of the screen time during the film’s climactic scene, when the shark decides to jump on the stern of the boat to take a bite out of both the vessel and Quint.

But the shark was not the only threat to the Orca II. After being decommissioned and put out of movie service, the replica boat would spend the next several decades being ransacked by Jaws fans and memorabilia collectors despite being located on private land. Frustrated and fed up, its owners would take a chainsaw to its fiberglass hull, leaving little more than a relic that was later visited by an archeologist fascinated with its status as a “fake” artifact.

In being looted by trespassers and ravaged by the sea, had the Orca II transformed into something other than a movie prop? Had it become a cultural touchstone worthy of closer examination, or had the film’s popularity exaggerated its significance? And after nearly 45 years, would there be anything left of the Orca II to even examine?

 

From the beginning, the Orca II may have been the only element of Jaws that worked as expected. The Universal film, which initially had a modest budget of $3.5 million, was directed by Spielberg, who had impressed executives with his television work and a 1974 feature, The Sugarland Express. Spielberg and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb rewrote Peter Benchley’s script, preserving only the bare bones of the story: A shark arrives during tourist season on Amity Island, throwing the town into an uproar. Chief of police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) recruits a marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and ornery old seaman Quint (Shaw) to protect their shores from the marine terror. Quint’s boat, the Orca, would be their maritime base of operations.

Alves tells Mental Floss that the need for a second stunt boat was obvious from the beginning. “I did 250 storyboards,” he says. “We knew the boat had to sink, and there was no way of sinking the real Orca and bringing it back.”

The working Orca was a 42-foot-long former lobster boat dubbed the Warlock that Alves had found near Marblehead, Massachusetts. The white boat was repainted in burgundy and black and accessorized with a pulpit and oversized windows, the better for a casual audience to identify it as a formidable shark-hunting vessel. It was part of a fleet of 16 ships the production used for filming on water, including multiple barges that towed boats and the mechanical sharks, as well as a catch-all vessel, the SS Garage Sale, that had dressing rooms and a bathroom for cast and crew. Speedboats could transport people or supplies back and forth from shore. Even with these ships, shooting on water was interminable, a fact that’s become part of Jaws lore.

The crew of 1975's 'Jaws' works between the 'Orca' and 'Orca II' boats
The Jaws crew works on a platform between the Orca and Orca II.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Charlie Blair

“It’s so difficult,” Alves, who worked on three of the four Jaws films, says. “The water is non-consistent. You had to anchor boats with four anchors to control them.” Once, the Orca took on water and partially sank. It had to be pulled out, dried out, and have wood replaced, all in time to be ready for shooting the following day.

Knowing the actual boat could never withstand such repeated stresses, Alves commissioned the production crew to make a cast out of the Orca and use it to construct a fiberglass replica. On the surface, the Orca II was a mirror image of the Orca; the team ran props back and forth between the boats as needed. But underneath was much different. Without a motor, it had to be towed into place for shots. If it needed to sink, a crew member would use pneumatic tubes to tip the barrels mounted below the hull so they would begin to take on water, and the ship would be pulled into the depths. Once water was siphoned out, the barrels would regain their buoyancy and it would return to the surface. It was so convincing that production painter Ward Welton once jumped on board to try and start it—and got confused when he couldn’t find the motor. He thought it was the actual Orca.

What Alves needed in addition to the Orca II and the other boats were experienced boat operators. He found a local named Lynn Murphy while supervising the construction of Quint’s home in nearby Menemsha. “I hired him,” Alves says. “He had a little shack there where he kept his boat. He was yelling and screaming. I asked if he was a boat guy because we needed some.” Lynn and his wife, Susan, both came on the production to captain the boats and oversee their use. “Lynn knew a lot about boats. He got there and corrected some things. We started using him to tow the shark.”

That Alves witnessed Lynn yelling was not an unusual occurrence. The former auto mechanic, who operated Menemsha Marine Repair, was infamous in the area for his fiery temper. Following some kind of verbal dispute with harbor master Phil Le Vasseur in 1969, Lynn ended the argument by tossing the man into the harbor.

“He was a rough kind of sea guy,” Alves says. As the story goes, Spielberg was so enamored with Lynn’s persona that he directed Shaw to channel him for Quint. That makes sense to Alves, who says Shaw took inspiration from Lynn and that the two often went out for drinks after filming for the day.

(Tempestuous as he may have been, Lynn was also known for his selflessness. He was once commended by then-Senator John F. Kennedy for his bravery in securing boats and providing assistance during two major hurricanes in 1954.)

As difficult as filming was, it might have been impossible if not for the efforts of Lynn, Susan, and the other locals. Filming that was supposed to end in July dragged on through August and into September. Shots that would have been simple to do on land were at the mercy of unpredictable waters and unforeseen circumstances. Once, the Orca II sank a little too well, taking with it two Panavision cameras that cost Universal $24,000 a week to rent. Both cameras were full of film. In a panic, a crew member stuffed the film into a bucket of freshwater to try and prevent the saltwater from ruining the celluloid. He then jumped on a plane to New York in the hopes that Kodak could develop it in time. The footage was saved, but the fate of the cameras is unknown.

Crew members from 'Jaws' look on as the 'Orca II' sinks
Joe Alves (L) and another crew member look on as the Orca II sinks on command.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Edith Blake

Near the end of shooting, the Orca II was positioned for its biggest moment. In the final face-off between man and shark, the mechanical predator (nicknamed “Bruce” after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer) was to “jump” on the stern, destroying it and gobbling up Quint in the process. Alves had made several breakaway sterns for the Orca II out of balsa wood. “We had three sterns,” he says. “I wish we had four. I’m not that happy with how the shark landed. There’s not a lot of balsa wood in Martha’s Vineyard. We shipped it in from Los Angeles.”

In September, Spielberg finished principal photography. Alves and others stayed behind for pick-up shots, including one last sinking of the Orca II. Once the film was finally done, the crew hurried off. Virtually no thought was given to the movie even being any good, let alone concern for the props or production elements involved.

“The studio didn’t give a damn,” Alves says. The Orca was shipped to Hollywood, where it was sold to a special effects technician who wanted to use it for sword fishing. He paid $13,000. The Orca II was left behind.

 

Lynn Murphy saw a purpose for the Orca II, but not as a piece of memorabilia. As the owner of a salvage operation, his property on the shoreline of Menemsha Creek across from the small fishing village of Menemsha had several scrap boats and vehicles, including the SS Garage Sale and three barges used for the film. He paid Universal a nominal amount of $1 to buy the Orca II, intending to use the fiberglass to build a shed on his property. It really had no other purpose because it was not actually a boat.

“It was simply a prop,” Lynn’s wife, Susan, tells Mental Floss. “It had no bottom. There was nothing that could make it float. It was not seaworthy. The only thing that made it seaworthy was the tanks that were filled to keep it floating. That’s how it could sink on cue. The only reason he got it is because they practically gave it to him.”

The 'Orca II' is pictured sitting on the shore
The Orca II sits on the private property of Lynn and Susan Murphy. The Murphys took possession of the boat just after filming was completed in fall 1974.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

Lynn towed the Orca II to his private shoreline but quickly ran into a snag. The shed he intended to build was not approved by local building authorities. With little use for the replica boat, he decided to let it sit idle on shore. The Orca II was visible across the water to anyone walking near the shoreline on Menemsha. For the rest of 1974 and for part of 1975, that was not a remarkable fact. But when Jaws opened in June 1975, everything changed.

The film became Hollywood’s first real summer blockbuster, devouring box office records and sitting atop the list of the highest-grossing films of all time before Star Wars arrived two years later. Suddenly, Martha’s Vineyard was no longer just a spot for vacationers but a place to make a pilgrimage to Amity Island. Lynn Murphy’s boat was no longer a discarded hunk of fiberglass but the Orca II, sticking its mast out for all to see. People just assumed it was there for their enjoyment.

“It started to be picked to death,” Susan says. Fans of the movie—who were eventually labeled “finatics”—would come over by boat and begin tearing into the Orca II, yanking out nails, planks, and whatever else could be removed by hand. Quickly, the pulpit, mast, and fly bridge went missing. 

“I’ve known people who have gone over there and taken pieces,” Jim Beller, a Jaws historian and collector, tells Mental Floss. “They weren’t sure it was the right thing to do.” Some, Beller says, took a piece and then regretted it later.

“Sometimes we called the police,” Susan says. “They would meet people on the other side of the harbor after they got back on the road with the stuff and arrest them for trespassing and stealing.” Some arrived under cover of night, using flashlights. The Murphys put up “No Trespassing” signs to little avail. A peculiar sense of ownership seemed to empower fans of the movie to chip away at the Orca II, piece by piece. It is something of a wonder that Lynn Murphy, never long on patience, didn’t wind up in a confrontation with one.

The 'Orca II' and SS 'Garage Sale' are pictured
The view of the Murphy property and the Orca II from Menemsha. The SS Garage Sale is on the left.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

“Lynn probably yelled at them to get away from the boat,” Susan says. “Whether he ever threw anyone overboard or got violent, I don’t think so.”

 

This went on for years; the Orca II seemed fated to be ransacked. According to Susan, towing it away was not really an option. It had arrived by water and there was nowhere else to put it. It was too large to drag further inland or display indoors. Partially pulled apart, it was likely of little interest to Universal, who had scrambled to buy back the Orca from the special effects technician after the movie was a hit so it could be put on display at Universal Studios as part of its Jaws ride. He reportedly charged them 10 times what he had paid them for it.

Out of options, the Murphys had little choice but to watch as the Orca II continued to be disassembled, both by fans and by the damaging saltwater washing over it. Souvenir hunters had even taken to yanking parts from the Far Star, a boat unrelated to Jaws that was located near the Orca II, leading to confusion over which was the genuine fake boat. Some posed for pictures, proudly displaying their technically-illegal gains.

“People get into a frenzy,” Susan says. “They think they can take anything they want. They were not really respectful to the movie they seemed to revere.”

The breaking point came in 2005, when the Murphys discovered that Martha’s Vineyard would be hosting Jawsfest, a weekend celebration of all things Jaws. Fans of the film would be coming to the island in greater numbers than ever before, and it was likely they would descend upon what was left of the Orca II like ants on a picnic.

The Murphys had enough. “Once we cut it up,” Susan says, “it was done.”

Taking a chainsaw to what remained of the fiberglass hull, the Murphys expedited the dissolution of the Orca II. They were left with 1000 fiberglass squares that measured 1 foot by 1 foot each. If fans wanted a souvenir, they could buy them in a proper transaction. The pieces did a brisk business, with certificates of authenticity from the Murphys. One piece reportedly sold on eBay for $1850.

The 'Orca II' is pictured
The Orca II is seen out of the water. The barrels used to sink and raise it are visible underneath.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

In 2011, the Murphys entered into an agreement with co-authors Beller and Matt Taylor to contribute smaller pieces to a limited edition of Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard, a book that takes a comprehensive look at the making of the film and highlighted their contributions to the production. “Once the book came out and people found out how big a part in the movie we had, there was a certain element of respect that wasn’t there before,” Susan says. “I’m not one to hold a grudge. I have to let go of what happened to the Orca II and the difficulty we had in protecting it.”

That appeared to be the end of the Orca II, at least as far as its shore presence was concerned. But there was still at least one person curious about what remained.

 

The Jaws phenomenon that gripped the country in 1975 was not lost on P.J. Capelotti. When he was 14 years old, he caught the film seven times in one week when it was playing at the $1 cinema. “It’s one of those movies you could watch endlessly,” Capelotti tells Mental Floss.

Now a professor of anthropology at Penn State Abington, Capelotti was looking for a project that might prove to be slightly less strenuous than some of his archaeological pursuits of the past. In 2015, his daughter showed him an article in the Boston Globe about the 40th anniversary of Jaws. “It had a picture of two different Orcas, one that was actually a real vessel and one that was a mock-up of the real vessel,” he says. “I thought, ‘Cool.’ I’m a Jaws fanatic. I knew where it was.”

Capelotti was not in search of a souvenir but to assess the location itself, which had become the unlikeliest of archaeological sites, for a chapter in his 2018 book, Adventures in Archaeology. “I wanted to see what was left,” he says. By this time in May 2017, Lynn Murphy had passed away; the couple had sold the land to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank, where it eventually wound up in the hands of a Native American tribe. To step foot on the land, visitors need permission from the natural resources department of the federally acknowledged Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Capelotti reached a friend at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get approval. A 45-minute ferry ride got him to Vineyard Haven, and a 45-minute drive took him to the segment of West Basin Road that looks out opposite Menemsha. After a 45-minute hike across a salt marsh and white dunes, Capelotti finally found it: the final resting place of the Orca II.

The 'Orca II' is seen sinking during the filming of 'Jaws' in 1974
The Orca II sinks on command as the crew looks on during the filming of Jaws.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

Above the sand and shallow water, the only thing that remained were six stanchions from the metal framework that was beneath the hull and held the barrels. Together, it measured 18 feet, 6 inches long and 8 feet wide. Some short lengths of the pneumatic tubing to assist in the sinking were also there. Nearby, what was left of the Far Star continued to erode, though it retained a boat-like shape. Some 60 feet away was the SS Garage Sale, the utility vessel from filming. It was all little more than a little bit of rubber, metal, and outlines in the sand. Whatever might be buried farther down went undisturbed. “I didn’t have permission to excavate into the sand,” Capelotti says.

Had it not been for exposure and overzealous fans, it’s likely the Orca II and its fiberglass frame would have outlived the original Orca, which went missing from the Jaws ride in 1996 and was thought to have deteriorated to the point that it sank and subsequently broke in half during an attempt to salvage it.

With the Orca II stripped down to its bones, Capelotti saw more than the vestiges of the prop it once was. It was a lesson in the fragility of cultural artifacts.

“Most sites we work on [in archaeology] have been reduced steadily over time,” he says. “The stone in the Roman Coliseum was looted in the Middle Ages to make homes for people in Rome.”

Susan Murphy continues to sell pieces of the Orca II, which she mounts in a shadowbox for $130 plus shipping. They still move at a steady clip, and Susan says she has enough inventory to keep Jaws fans supplied for the foreseeable future. Purchasing one requires some imagination. Stripped of paint, the fiberglass pieces aren’t easily identifiable as something that was once part of the iconic vessel that helped bring down one of the most terrifying horror villains in movie history.

The 'Orca II' is seen out of the water
The Orca II stands tall during filming.
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories form Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

“I have a piece of the red part of the Orca II, a big piece, but you wouldn’t know what it was,” Beller says.

If the Orca II had remained intact, Capelotti believes it could have been destined to sell for an incredible sum to a collector. “Dorothy’s ruby slippers [from The Wizard of Oz] are valued at millions of dollars,” he says. “Imagine what something like the Orca II would have been worth.”

Sometimes, Beller says, there are renewed talks of a fan building a full-scale replica. No one has fully committed to such an ambitious and expensive project, though. To date, nothing has surfaced, and the Orca II lives on only on film and in photos. But that doesn't mean it's been entirely forgotten.

Not long ago, Alves was at a convention, Shark Con, when he was approached by a father and daughter who presented him with a small piece of metal. “What’s this?” he said. The two explained they had been to West Basin Road—presumably without tribal permission—and had taken what they believed to be a souvenir of the Orca II. This time, though, things went a little differently.

“They gave it to me,” Alves says.

Additional Source: Adventures in Archaeology.

Stephen King's Maine Home Will Become a Museum and Writer's Retreat

Russ Quinlan, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Russ Quinlan, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Early in his career, author Stephen King (It, The Shining, The Outsider) embraced his public persona of being a spooky writer of the macabre. He purchased a 19th-century Victorian mansion in Bangor, Maine in 1980 for $135,000 and spent some Halloweens outside passing out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Now, King’s residence is set to become something of a Bangor landmark. As Rolling Stone reports, King and his wife Tabitha requested that their private home at 47 West Broadway be rezoned as a nonprofit center, which the Bangor City Council granted this week. The plan is to turn the home into a museum devoted to King’s work as well as a writer’s retreat.

King isn’t evicting himself, exactly. While he remains the owner, he and his family have spent less time at the residence over the years, instead residing in Florida or Oxford County, Maine.

Shortly after King purchased the home, he wrote and read aloud an essay addressing why he chose Bangor and his earliest impressions of 47 West Broadway. “I think it disapproved of us at first,” he wrote. “The parlor seemed cold in a way that had little to do with temperature. The cat would not go into that room; the kids avoided it. My oldest son was convinced there were ghosts in the turret towers …” A few months in, King recalled, his family began to settle in.

The Bangor home has morphed into a tourist attraction of sorts over time, with fans of King’s making a pilgrimage to the spot to take photos or idle around its ornate iron gate. Soon they’ll be able to peek inside, though the museum will be by appointment only. It’s not yet known when the home will open to visitors or how writers can apply to stay there.

[h/t Rolling Stone]

16 Biting Facts About Fright Night

William Ragsdale stars in Fright Night (1985).
William Ragsdale stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

Charley Brewster is your typical teen: he’s got a doting mom, a girlfriend whom he loves, a wacky best friend … and an enigmatic vampire living next door.

For more than 30 years, Tom Holland’s critically acclaimed directorial debut has been a staple of Halloween movie marathons everywhere. To celebrate the season, we dug through the coffins of the horror classic in order to discover some things you might not have known about Fright Night.

1. Fright Night was based on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

Or, in this case, "The Boy Who Cried Vampire." “I started to kick around the idea about how hilarious it would be if a horror movie fan thought that a vampire was living next door to him,” Holland told TVStoreOnline of the film’s genesis. “I thought that would be an interesting take on the whole Boy Who Cried Wolf thing. It really tickled my funny bone. I thought it was a charming idea, but I really didn't have a story for it.”

2. Peter Vincent made Fright Night click.

It wasn’t until Holland conceived of the character of Peter Vincent, the late-night horror movie host played by Roddy McDowall, that he really found the story. While discussing the idea with a department head at Columbia Pictures, Holland realized what The Boy Who Cried Vampire would do: “Of course, he's gonna go to Vincent Price!” Which is when the screenplay clicked. “The minute I had Peter Vincent, I had the story,” Holland told Dread Central. “Charley Brewster was the engine, but Peter Vincent was the heart.”

3. Peter Vincent is named after two horror icons.

Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

4. The Peter Vincent role was intended for Vincent Price.

Roddy McDowall in Fright Night (1985)
Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

“Now the truth is that when I first went out with it, I was thinking of Vincent Price, but Vincent Price was not physically well at the time,” Holland said.

5. Roddy McDowall did not want to play the part like Vincent Price.

Once he was cast, Roddy McDowall made the decision that Peter Vincent was nothing like Vincent Price—specifically: he was a terrible actor. “My part is that of an old ham actor,” McDowall told Monster Land magazine in 1985. “I mean a dreadful actor. He had a moderate success in an isolated film here and there, but all very bad product. Basically, he played one character for eight or 10 films, for which he probably got paid next to nothing. Unlike stars of horror films who are very good actors and played lots of different roles, such as Peter Lorre and Vincent Price or Boris Karloff, this poor sonofabitch just played the same character all the time, which was awful.”

6. It took Holland just three weeks to write the Fright Night script.

And he had a helluva good time doing it, too. “I couldn’t stop writing,” Holland said in 2008, during a Fright Night reunion at Fright Fest. “I wrote it in about three weeks. And I was laughing the entire time, literally on the floor, kicking my feet in the air in hysterics. Because there’s something so intrinsically humorous in the basic concept. So it was always, along with the thrills and chills, something there that tickled your funny bone. It wasn’t broad comedy, but it’s a grin all the way through.”

7. Tom Holland directed Fright Night out of "self-defense."

By the time Fright Night came around, Holland was already a Hollywood veteran—just not as a director. He had spent the past two decades as an actor and writer and he told the crowd at Fright Fest that “this was the first film where I had sufficient credibility in Hollywood to be able to direct ... I had a film after Psycho 2 and before Fright Night called Scream For Help, which … I thought was so badly directed that [directing Fright Night] was self-defense. In self-defense, I wanted to protect the material, and that’s why I started directing with Fright Night."

8. Chris Sarandon had a number of reasons for not wanting to make Fright Night.

Chris Sarandon stars in 'Fright Night' (1985)
Chris Sarandon stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

At the Fright Night reunion, Chris Sarandon recalled his initial reaction to being approached about playing vampire Jerry Dandrige. "I was living in New York and I got the script,” he explained. “My agent said that someone was interested in the possibility of my doing the movie, and I said to myself, ‘There’s no way I can do a horror movie. I can’t do a vampire movie. I can’t do a movie with a first-time director.’ Not a first-time screenwriter, but first-time director. And I sat down and read the script, and I remember very vividly sitting at my desk, looked over at my then wife and said, ‘This is amazing. I don’t know. I have to meet this guy.’ And so, I came out to L.A. And I met with Tom [Holland] and our producer. And we just hit it off, and that was it.”

9. Jerry Dandridge is part fruit bat.

After doing some research into the history of vampires and the legends surrounding them, Sarandon decided that Jerry had some fruit bat in him, which is why he’s often seen snacking on fruit in the film. When asked about the 2011 remake with Colin Farrell, Sarandon commented on how much he appreciated that that specific tradition continued. “In this one, it's an apple, but in the original, Jerry ate all kinds of fruit because it was just sort of something I discovered by searching it—that most bats are not blood-sucking, but they're fruit bats,” Sarandon told io9. “And I thought well maybe somewhere in Jerry's genealogy, there's fruit bat in him, so that's why I did it.”

10. William Ragsdale learned he had booked the part of Charley Brewster on Halloween.

William Ragsdale had only ever appeared in one film before Fright Night (in a bit part). He had recently been considered for the role of Rocky Dennis in Mask, which “didn’t work out,” Ragsdale recalled. “But a few months later, [casting director] Jackie Burch tells me, ‘There’s this movie I’m casting. You might be really right for it.’ So, I had this 1976 Toyota Celica and I drove that through the San Joaquin valley desert for four or five trips down for auditioning. And in the last one, Stephen [Geoffreys] was there, Amanda [Bearse] was there and that’s when it happened. I had read the script and at the time I had been doing Shakespeare and Greek drama, so I read this thing and thought, ‘Well, God, this looks like a lot of fun. There’s no … iambic pentameter, there’s no rhymes. You know? Where’s the catharsis? Where’s the tragedy?’ … I ended up getting a call on Halloween that they had decided to use me, and I was delighted.”

11. Not being Anthony Michael Hall worked in Stephen Geoffreys's favor.

In a weird way, it was by not being Anthony Michael Hall that Stephen Geoffreys was cast as Evil Ed. “I actually met Jackie Burch, the casting director, by mistake in New York months before this movie was cast and she remembered me,” Geoffreys shared at Fright Fest. “My agent sent me for an audition for Weird Science. And Anthony Michael Hall was with the same agent that I was with, and she sent me by mistake. And Jackie looked at me when I walked into the office and said, ‘You’re not Anthony Michael Hall!’ and I’m like ‘No!’ But anyway, I sat down and I talked to Jackie for a half hour and she remembered me from that interview and called my agent, and my agent sent me the script while I was with Amanda [Bearse] in Palm Springs doing Fraternity Vacation, and I read it. It was awesome. The writing was incredible.”

12. Evil Ed wanted to be Charley Brewster.

Stephen Geoffreys stars in 'Fright Night' (1985).
Stephen Geoffreys stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

Geoffreys loved the script for Fright Night. “I just got this really awesome feeling about it,” he said. “I read it and thought I’ve got to do this. I called my agent and said ‘I would love to audition for the part of Charley Brewster!’ [And he said] ‘No, Steve, you’re wanted for the part of Evil Ed.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me? Why? I couldn’t… What do they see in me that they think I should be this?' Well anyway, it worked out. It was awesome and I had a great time.”

13. Fright Night's original ending was much different.

The film’s original ending saw Peter Vincent transform into a vampire—while hosting “Fright Night” in front of a live television audience.

14. A ghost from Ghostbusters made a cameo in Fright Night.

Visual effects producer Richard Edlund had recently finished up work on Ghostbusters when he and his team began work on Fright Night. And the movie gave them a great reason to recycle one of the library ghosts they had created for Ghostbusters—which was deemed too scary for Ivan Reitman's PG-rated classic—and use it as a vampire bat for Fright Night.

15. Fright Night's cast and crew took it upon themselves to record some DVD commentaries.

Because the earliest DVD versions of Fright Night contained no commentary tracks, in 2008 the cast and crew partnered with Icons of Fright to record a handful of downloadable “pirate” commentary tracks about the making of the film. The tracks ended up on a limited-edition 30th anniversary Blu-ray of the film, which sold out in hours.

16. Vincent Price loved Fright Night.


Columbia Pictures

Holland had the chance to meet Vincent Price one night at a dinner party at McDowall’s. And the actor was well aware that McDowall’s character was based on him. “I was a little bit embarrassed by it,” Holland admitted. “He said it was wonderful and he thought Roddy did a wonderful job. Thank God he didn’t ask why he wasn’t cast in it.”

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