Review by Steve D. Stones
I'll never forget seeing a trailer for Jaws when I was about three years old. The images on the screen scared me so bad that I wanted to crawl under my seat and hide forever. When my family took a trip to Southern California in the late 1970s, I didn't want to get out of the car to go down to the beach for fear that a shark might get me. Movie goers had this same fear for years after the premiere of Jaws.
After the success of Jaws, a follow up film was discussed by the executives at Universal Studios. In their book "Jaws 2 - The Making Of The Hollywood Sequel," authors Louis R. Pisano and Michael A. Smith chronicle the events of the making of Jaws 2. It's from BearManor Media.
Originally the folllow-up film would be a prequel instead of a sequel. The prequel film was going to pick up Captain Quint's story in the original Jaws of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in July of 1945. That idea was abandoned, and instead a sequel was made that focused on many of the main characters returning, but also a story of teenagers being hunted on the ocean by a giant shark.
Director John Hancock was asked to direct the sequel in 1977. Just a few months into filming, Hancock was fired from the production. Many involved with the film felt like it was going in the wrong direction. Hancock created a dark and dreary Amityville, drained of color. His vision was much more violent than the executives at Universal Studios wanted, making it so that the film could not possibly get a PG rating.
Arriving on the set one day, Hancock was driven to a local airport with his bags already packed and asked to leave. This created chaos with the production. Many of the young actors involved with the project were also fired, including Ricky Schroder, who had his hair dyed brown to look like Police Chief Brody's son - played by Roy Scheider reprising his role.
The script was soon changed and a new director, Jeannot Szwarc of France, took over the production. Jeannot was someone who could work well under pressure and take orders from executives. He brought color and vibrancy back into the production. Now his task was to re-shoot most of the film and get the production back on track.
Interestingly enough, many of the actors interviewed in the book claim they had no idea that the production was going so badly, and seemed a bit shocked by the firing of director Hancock. Their biggest shock was in being let go from the project and replaced by other actors.
Another interesting fact noted in the book is that Roy Scheider was not interested in doing the sequel, and Steven Spielberg was not interested in directing it, especially since he was involved with directing Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977) at the time. Scheider eventually agree to reprise his role after executives told him that if he did the sequel, his contract would count it as two films, instead of one. Many actors involved found Scheider hard to work with and tempermental at times.
Authors Pisano and Smith point out at both the beginning and ending of the book that most of the films on the top ten list of highest-grossing films of all time have been sequels. Their analysis is to prove that Jaws 2 created the sequel formula that led Hollywood to make sequels to box office successes. At the time Jaws 2 was made, sequels were unheard of in Hollywood. Even the second Star Wars movie - Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), had not been made yet.
The last section of the book is interesting because it gives the testimonies of die-hard Jaws 2 fans, many of whom say that Jaws 2 is not only the greatest sequel in Hollywood history, but also feel it is even better than the original Jaws. Some fans suggest that Jaws 2 is more interesting than the original film because it is from the point of view of the shark hunting teenagers on the ocean, instead of the hunters hunting a shark. There is even some artwork created and shown in the book by young fans of Jaws 2.
If you are a fan of Jaws, particularly Jaws 2, you may want to check out Jaws 2 - The Making Of The Hollywood Sequel. To date, Carl Gottlieb's book - The Jaws Log, is the best-selling book about all things Jaws. Gottlieb provides the forward to the Pisano and Smith book. Gottlieb co-wrote Jaws and served as screenwriter of Jaws 2. Happy reading.