In the 37-year history of Jaws, a lot of the key cast and crew members have received their day in the sun, from editor Verna Fields and production designer Joe Alves, to composer John Williams and shark builder Robert A. Mattey. But there are still some stirling contributions from unheralded Jaws players, both in front of the camera and behind it, that have yet to be celebrated. So here is a roll call of just a few unsung heroes that add to the texture of Jaws to make it the classic that it is.
Ted Grossman was Jaws’ stunt co-ordinator and has the distinction of being a member of the exclusive club of people killed by Bruce. Grossman is billed in the movie as ‘Estuary Victim’, the smart-alec sap who shouts sailing instructions to Brody’s kid, then gets attacked by the shark (above), his severed leg floating to the bottom of the ocean (this is one of Jaws’ most famous continuity gaffs: in the boat, he is barefoot; as his leg drops down it boasts a running shoe). Spielberg originally envisioned the scene differently with Grossman in the shark’s mouth heading towards Brody’s son and scooping him up to get him out of harm’s way. “I was in this bucket seat strapped into it,” recalled Grossman. “The shark fin was behind me on a sled. I had the kid in my arms and was going to take him underwater and then the sled went underwater. It was so horrendous, that they couldn’t use it. It was too violent period.”
Grossman’s heroics also ran off-screen: he was the poor sod responsible for bringing a 900lb dead tiger shark (to hang in the Amity dock) from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard. Grossman went onto become a constant presence throughout Spielberg’s career turning up in Raiders (Peruvian Porter), E.T. (Government Agent), The Goonies (FBI man), Always (Fisherman No.2), Last Crusade (Deputy Sheriff) and Crystal Skull (reprising the role of Peruvian Porter).
Roger Kastel was working as a New York illustrator when he was commissioned by Bantam books to do the paperback cover for Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws. As research, Kastel went to New York’s Natural History museum and took photos of Great White exhibits that were lying on easels for cleaning. With his shark image clear in his mind, Kastel took five minutes at the end of a photo shoot for Good Housekeeping to place the model onto a stool and get her to do an approximation of the front crawl.
Impressed by the cover, Universal purloined the Kastel’s work for the movie poster — Bantam books chief Oscar Dystel gave it to the filmmakers for free, losing out on millions of dollars — and it quickly became iconic, riffed on by cartoonists to represent USSR-USA relations, the presidential elections (Gerard Ford vs. Ronald Reagan), rising inflation and the energy crisis. Yet apart from being ripe for interpretation, the poster is also imbued with subtleties — note how the J of the Jaws looks like a fishing hook. Kastel proved to be no one hit wonder: he also produced the beautiful Gone With The Wind poster for The Empire Strikes Back.
To see more of Roger Kastel's work visit www.rogerkastel.com
The first half of Jaws is filled with wondrous, unforgettable background characters creating the rich tapestry of life in a seaside town. The lady who is the first to enter the water before Alex Kintner’s death. The Amity Harbour master with his pipe and Scorsese-esque eyebrows. The black haired motel owner who doesn’t find the reward money gag (“Cash or cheque?”) funny. The two clowns who catch the tiger fish. These indelible bit-parts are the handi-work of Shari Rhodes, a casting director who was an expert in the now defunct art of finding talent and extras on location rather than bringing in standard LA types (look at the beach scenes in Jaws — it is a real beach filled with people of all shapes and sizes). She worked with Spielberg again on Close Encounters and also cast Silverado, Terms Of Endearment, Mississippi Burning and TV shows ranging from Dallas to Breaking Bad. She passed away in 2009. Here is a tribute to some of the fantastic faces she discovered for Jaws.
Tom Cassidy (Jonathan Filley)
Peggy Scott (Polly)
Steven Pottter (Pipit's owner)
Alfred Wilde (Bad Hat Harry)
Jane Courtney (Motel Owner Mrs. Taft)
Ed Chalmers and Bob Chambers (Jetty Bozos)
Donald Poole (Amity Harbour master Frank Silva)
Craig Kingsbury (Ben Gardner)
Robert Nevin (Medical Examiner)
Lee Fierro (Mrs Kintner)
Henry Carreiro *(Felix