In Bruce, we meet many real-life figures in the film industry. Who are they? What were their roles on the film and in the greater filmmaking industry? We’ve put together a “who’s who” of a few folks you’ll get to know in Bruce.
Steven Spielberg – Director
Responsible for some of the most commercially successful and beloved films of the last 50 years, Steven Spielberg’s extensive filmography includes harrowing historical epics, intense war movies, compelling science fiction films, swashbuckling adventures, and moving movie musicals. He has been awarded three Academy Awards, a Kennedy Center honor, a Cecil B. DeMille Award, and an AFI Life Achievement Award. Spielberg also serves as a producer for many T.V. series and films, and co-founded the successful production companies Amblin Entertainment and DreamWorks. Now a ubiquitous household name, “Spielberg” wasn’t always synonymous with box office success. When he embarked on filming Jaws in the summer of 1975, Spielberg was an unknown and untested 26-year-old director with a lot on the line. With setback after setback during production on Martha’s Vineyard, his future in film was looking dead in the water, but when Jaws became a surprise blockbuster, it launched Spielberg’s path toward an unmatched, chart-topping career in Hollywood.
Joe Alves – Production Designer
As the Production Designer on Jaws, Joe Alves was tasked with developing the visual concept and design style for the film, including the locations, sets, and even camera angles. Notably, for this film, he designed three separate mechanical sharks, however, none of the three had been tested in water, causing a series of notorious delays that many still talk about (and explored in Bruce). Later in his career, Alves won an Academy Award and a BAFTA for his work on another Spielberg film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Verna Fields – Editor
Verna Fields was one of the first female film editors to achieve widespread recognition across the film industry. For the first part of her career, spanning from the mid-50s to the early 70s, Vera mainly worked on small projects, with little recognition. Her editing on Jaws has been studied by many for decades, after she won the Academy Award for it. Post release, Vera was named Vice-President of Feature Production at Universal Studios, again breaking barriers as one of the first women to enter upper-level management at a major studio.
Peter Benchley – Author & Screenwriter
Peter Benchley was an American author, screenwriter, and ocean activist. He is known for his bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for both cinema and television, including The Deep, The Island, Beast, and White Shark. Later in life, he became an advocate for marine conservation.
David Brown and Richard “Dick” Zanuck – Producers
Described as a “bon vivant” in his New York Times obituary, David Brown was a successful film and theater producer. He began his career as a journalist and was later hired by Darryl F. Zanuck in 1951 to head the story department at 20th Century-Fox. In 1971 he formed an independent production studio with Zanuck’s son, Richard. The two would go on to produce Steven Spielberg’s early films (including Jaws in 1975) and other blockbusters like The Verdict (1982), Cocoon (1985), and Driving Miss Daisy (1989).
As the producers of Jaws, Zanuck and Brown were responsible for hiring the creative team and securing funding for the picture. When Jaws went into production, it was Zanuck and Brown’s job to make sure that the film was completed on time and on budget – no small task given the cascade of problems that began as soon as they embarked on the project.
Despite the disastrous production process on Jaws, Zanuck, Brown, and Spielberg maintained a great respect for each other that lasted years after the opening of the film. In a 1993 note to the two legendary producers, Spielberg wrote, “People always remember their first loves in life; you were my first in film.”
Shari Rhodes – Casting
Originally from Texas, Shari Rhodes did location casting for Jaws, finding local actors and amateurs from Boston and Martha’s Vineyard for many roles in the film. Rhodes went on to have a long career as a casting director in T.V. and film and served as executive producer of Man on the Moon, Reese Witherspoon’s on-screen debut. Toward the end of her life, Rhodes lived in New Mexico and worked as the location casting director for "Breaking Bad" and other T.V. shows. She died in 2009 after a battle with breast cancer.
Bob Mattey – Special Effects Artist
The creator of some of Disney’s most fantastical creatures—including the terrifying squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)—Bob Mattey was brought on board by producers Brown and Zanuck to design Jaws’ central, ferocious aquatic carnivore: Bruce. Drawing on his extensive experience as an Imagineer for Disney theme parks and as a special effects designer for Disney films like The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Mary Poppins (1964), Mattey created three giant animatronic sharks to portray the deadly antagonist of Peter Benchley’s novel. The price tag? $150,000 each (that’s $800,000 per shark today!).
Carl Gottlieb – Screenwriter; Meadows
Originally, Carl Gottlieb was hired by Spielberg—with whom he already had a friendship—to rewrite the Jaws script and add in more character development and humor. As the screenwriter, he also created the dialogue and storyline of the script, creating a blueprint for the film. Interestingly, Carl ended up reducing his own acting role as Harry Meadows through his redrafting work. Notably, he wrote The Jaws Log after getting Spielberg to agree to collaborate with him on it.
Roy Scheider – Brody
Roy Scheider is famously known for having ad-libbed Brody’s iconic line: “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” Already a household name in the 1970s, Roy appeared in films such as Klute, The French Connection, and All That Jazz—the last two of which garnered him multiple Oscar nominations. He secured the role of Brody after meeting Spielberg at a party and offering himself up as an alternative to the multitude of actors who had already auditioned.
Richard “Ricky” Dreyfuss – Hooper
When recently speaking to Vanity Fair about his role in Jaws, Richard Dreyfuss stated: “I can sincerely tell you that I tried desperately to get out of that one!” Richard claims he knew going into the film how difficult the shoot was going to turn out to be and only took the role to salvage his career. However, this decision was certainly fruitful for him. After the film’s release Dreyfuss achieved several career highs including an Academy Award in 1978, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA.
Robert Shaw – Quint
Robert Shaw was an intense, compelling actor who inhabited a wide range of roles on stage and screen over the course of a rich 30-year career. Born in Lancashire in the U.K., Shaw got his start on the stage, appearing in Shakespeare productions across England in the 1940s and 50s. He became a T.V. star in England following his appearance as Captain Dan Tempest in "The Buccaneers" (1956-57), and successfully expanded this popularity to include film after playing a cold-hearted assassin in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love (1963).
Shaw won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Henry VII in A Man for All Seasons (1966), and while he might be best known for playing Quint the shark hunter in Jaws (1975), he appeared in other notable films like The Sting (1973), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Robin and Marian (1976), and The Deep (1977). Shaw was also a prolific writer, penning five novels and six plays, including The Man in the Glass Case, which started life as a novel and went on to become a successful stage play and eventual film. Upon his death in 1978 at the age of fifty-one, the Washington Post dubbed Shaw “one of the most forceful and successful character actors on the contemporary English-speaking screen.”
Lorraine Gary – Ellen Brody
Lorraine Gary is best known for her role in the Jaws series. Although she did not appear in the flop Jaws 3-D, she did appear in the first two films, as well as Jaws: The Revenge, which came out in 1987. Gary was married to Sidney (Sid) Sheinberg, President and Chief Operating Officer of MCA, Inc. and Universal Studios during the filming of Jaws, known for discovering Steven Spielberg. Lorraine is also known for her work in the comedies 1941 and Car Wash. Over the course of her life and career Lorraine has been a passionate advocate for women’s rights and human rights.