SHARK WEAK: Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 wasn’t going to make anyone happy.

How do you recapture the magic of a film that took so many by surprise, even if it was calculated to do exactly what it set out to accomplish? Then again, until Rocky II came out, this was the most successful sequel in history.

Producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown realized that if they didn’t make this movie, someone else would. You know who wouldn’t be coming along? Director Steven Spielberg, who referred to sequels as “carny tricks” and had such a bad time making the original that there was no way he was getting back on the boat.

John D. Hancock, who wrote and directed Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, was the pick to make it instead but after execs saw the dark movie he was making, they let him go. Of course, the fact that he didn’t want Universal President Sidney Sheinberg’s wife Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody) to be on the boat rescuing people may have had something to do with his firing.

There’s also the matter of what his version of the movie was going to be about. Taking the idea that the town of Amity was in debt to organized crime, the film would open with a boarded-up ghost town with no tourist economy — and the mob coming to collect — being saved by a new resort being built on the island before a second shark appears.

Strangely enough, this is when Spielberg considered returning, planning a movie based on to direct Quint’s Indianapolis speech. However, the sequel would have to wait a year until he could make Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Production designer Joe Alves and Verna Fields proposed co-directing the film, but the Directors Guild of America objected to one of their members being replaced by a crew member who was not in their union. Jeannot Szwarc, who made Bug and eventually Santa Claus: The Movie and Supergirl, came in.

You know who wasn’t all that happy at this point? Roy Scheider.

The actor had quit The Deer Hunter two weeks into production due to creative differences, so Universal offered to just let him out of his three-movie contract if he made Jaws 2. He claimed that there was nothing new to do in the movie. He went so far as to act mentally deranged so they would fire him, but his new deal made him 400% more than the first movie and got a percentage of the film’s net profit.

However, he pretty much got along with Szwarc like a human and a shark. He felt that the director ignored the principal actors and was wasted time with extras and technical shots. In a mediation meeting, talks devolved into physical violence and then letters were exchanged.

You have to love that the very day a new hotel opens on Amity Island, a new great white shows up and starts killing divers and water skiers before surviving a boat explosion to murder even more people and a killer whale. Take that, Orca!

Police Chief Brody knows it’s a shark. He tells Mayor Larry Vaughn again and you’d think Larry would learn by now, but he claims there’s no way a second shark could come to Amity. And you’d think that Brody’s son Mike would know by now that sharks are out to kill you and all of your teenage friends, but if people weren’t stupid, we wouldn’t have a movie.

2 thoughts on “SHARK WEAK: Jaws 2 (1978)

  1. I actually preferred the novelization, which I believe I read was derived from an early draft of the script. The thing I remember was, in the book, Mike Brody is into scuba diving as well as boating, and he has to talk Chief Brody into letting him take scuba lessons. I recall there’s a line about how Chief Brody walks into the house and Mike is reading a diving magazine, and the Chief wishing that his son was reading Hustler or something like that (ya know, like other teenage boys). But the Chief eventually relents and agrees to sign the consent form and buys Mike a new wetsuit.

    And you know the scene where the diving instructor freaks when he sees the shark, and bolts for the surface? Well, in the book, it’s Mike’s diving buddy during the check out dive.

    I also remember a scene where Mayor Vaughan’s son and a friend of his are spying on Mike making out with his girlfriend on the beach, with the upshot being that he chases one of them into the water and nearly drowns the guy after they get caught peeping.

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    • Yeah, this happens quite a bit: the novel is derived from an early draft and not the shooting script, although we weren’t aware of Jaws 2 suffering that fate; at least I wasn’t.

      One that I remember, vividly, changing drastically, was Over the Edge, which was the Matt Dillon teen-angst flick. The novelization (very expensive to get these days, used) is much better than the film. That, too, came from an early draft. A few scenes in the book (from the earlier script) had to be cut from the film because they were too expensive and impractical to shoot, based on the slight budget acquired for filming.

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