It is widely known that throughout the film a robotic, mechanical shark was used. However, in order to help “legitimize” the film a bit, Spielberg and his crew desired real sharks to be shot in the film as well. As a result, experienced shark photographers Ron and Valerie Taylor were hired to shoot some shark footage off the coast of Australia.
The scene to be shot with the real sharks involved the killer shark in the film attacking the cage Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) was in. However, unsurprisingly, a problem soon presented itself. The sharks that were being filmed off of Australia were only 14 feet in length, compared to the estimated 26 foot long killer shark in the film. To resolve the issue, the shark cage was scaled down in order to make the live action sharks appear larger. Also, a small dummy and later a small person (a midget) was placed in the cage (Making of Jaws).
Soon another problem arose. Even with tempting them via bait, the sharks did not attack the cage. A week went by as Ron and Valerie unsuccessfully tried to film an attack scene. One day, however, a large shark swam over top of the cage and became entangled in the cables. Valerie Taylor quotes, “And when a shark is trapped, it goes crazy…and Ron was filming underwater, and actually that’s how we got that footage and they used it” (Making of Jaws).
Written by Anthony Watkins
Jaws. Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Prod. David Brown and Richard B. Zanuck. 1975. Special Edition Blu-Ray. Universal Pictures, 1975.