Jaws, director Steven Spielberg's "terrifying motion picture" that made audiences afraid to go into the water, released on June 20, 1975. Based on author Peter Benchley's novel and credited as the start of the summer blockbuster, Jaws sunk its teeth into the box office to become the highest-grossing film of all time until it was unseated by Star Wars in summer 1977. When vacation town Amity Island is menaced by a great white shark, aquaphobic police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) sets out to sea with marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to destroy the sharp-toothed man-eater.
Spielberg's follow-up to his first theatrically released feature film, The Sugarland Express, the wunderkind filmmaker was famously plagued by troubles making Jaws: production was a swim until the trio of men journey out to the ocean aboard the Orca, where a sea shoot and an often malfunctioning mechanical shark made production go "pear-shaped."
"I think Sid Sheinberg [then president and chief operating officer of Universal Pictures] always blocked the intention of Ned Tanen [then head of production at Universal] to fire me. He wanted me fired," Spielberg recalled in a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly. "[Jaws producers] Dick Zanuck and David Brown always told me that the other shoe was about to drop. They always warned me. And they didn’t warn me to threaten me or to intimidate me, they just said, 'Is there anything you can do with the script, with the schedule, to avert a shut-down? What can you do?'"
But Spielberg couldn't cut the script rewritten by screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, and he especially couldn't cut the shark-hunting third act taking place entirely on the ocean.
"I had to just keep moving forward, and the schedule was dictated by the mechanical shark, and by the weather conditions on the ocean. That’s what dictated the overrun," Spielberg recalled. "And I think every time there was an intention to replace me, Sid stepped in quietly behind the scenes and stopped it from happening."
Spielberg's film — helped made successful by editor Verna Fields, who was awarded her sole Oscar for Jaws, and the iconic, predatory score composed by John Williams — opened with a record-setting $7 million opening weekend before overtaking such hits as 1972's The Godfather and 1973's The Exorcist. The Universal Pictures blockbuster spent 14 consecutive weeks at number one and was the first film to gross more than $100 million, spawning a franchise that would be followed by three sequels — Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws: The Revenge — none of which were directed by Spielberg.
45 YEARS AGO TODAY #JAWS was released and changed cinema forever.
We’ll be celebrating all weekend with blogs, polls, quizzes, giveaways & the #JawsWeMake premiere (9pm GMT).June 19, 2020
Jaws turns 45 today! pic.twitter.com/k8XZKWGfwh— Horror-Con (@HorrorCon2013) June 20, 2020
Today marks the 45th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, one of the greatest horror films of all time pic.twitter.com/CSU7VvtBhn— Horror Necronomicon (@horrornecronom) June 20, 2020
Released on this day 45 years ago (20 June 1975)
Directed by Steven Spielberg pic.twitter.com/6BOBWHMmdg— World Cinema 🎬 (@WorldCinemania) June 20, 2020
Jaws was released 45 years ago today. I never tire of this film, one of the greatest ever made. This classic horror transcends the genre and invented the summer blockbuster. It boasts perfect casting, an iconic score and exquisite camerawork by Spielberg. Movie magic. #Jaws45 🦈 pic.twitter.com/NwLKHledXC— Leanne McGrath (@LeaMcGrath1) June 20, 2020
Jaws was released 45 years ago today.— joe heenan (@joeheenan) June 20, 2020
This is my favourite on set photo pic.twitter.com/eobSVU7UQU
Jaws (1975) set the template for many subsequent horror films, to the extent that the script for Ridley Scott's 1979 science fiction film Alien was pitched to studio executives as "Jaws in space". pic.twitter.com/rUzmnakKq8— Carnival of Horror (@HorrorCarnival) June 20, 2020
45 years ago today, Steven Spielberg's JAWS opened in theaters and nobody went swimming that summer. pic.twitter.com/DN4IDsz0v7— Meredith Frost (@MeredithFrost) June 20, 2020