Sharks are returning to Discovery for Shweekend 2015, and with it the Mythbusters are set to once again take on the most famous shark movie of all time, Jaws, examining the cinematic duel that pitted Brody, Quint, and Hooper against cinema’s most feared great white shark.
Robert Shaw’s performance as the obsessed shark hunter Quint is one of the most well-remembered in film history, and a deeply-loved facet of the classic movie. From his Cape Cod accent to the single-mindedness with which he pursues the shark, Shaw’s take on Quint is deeply evocative, yet casual fans of the movie may not understand just how much went into bringing the character to the screen.
— Shark Week (@SharkWeek) August 29, 2015
Shaw wasn’t Spielberg’s first choice for Quint, and the actor needed convincing
Both Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden were considered for the role of Quint before Shaw, according to Legacy.com. The actor was actually recommended to Spielberg by producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, who had recently worked with him on The Sting, but even when approached, Shaw needed convincing. An accomplished and award-winning author in his own right, Shaw had read Jaws and hated the book. It was only prodding from his wife and secretary that eventually convinced Shaw to take on his most well-remembered role.
“Jaws was not a novel,” he later said. “It was a story written by a committee, a piece of s***.”
Quint was based on a local fisherman
Shaw’s take on Quint came from Martha’s Vineyard resident Craig Kingsbury, who Spielberg believed to be “the purest version of who, in my mind, Quint was.” In addition to sharing sea stories and coaching Shaw on his accent, Kingsbury was offered a role in Jaws, appearing as fisherman Ben Gardner, as the Guardian notes.
Quint’s iconic scene needed a do-over
One of the most well-remembered scenes in Jaws is Quint’s monologue detailing the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. A powerful moment in the movie, it required a second day of filming to complete, as the scene featured the characters drinking, and Shaw actually consumed alcohol during the shoot. So much so, in fact, that he blacked out and had to be carried off. The scene that ended up in the movie was shot the next day, after a frantic Shaw called Spielberg that night, worrying he had done something embarrassing that he couldn’t remember.
Shaw helped write Quint’s signature monologue
Quint’s Indianapolis monologue defines the character for many Jaws fans, but the version acted onscreen benefited deeply from Shaw’s talents as a writer. Accounts differ as to whether Shaw was responsible for the majority of the rewrite, but he acted it beautifully, contrite after the previous day’s misadventure. Shaw’s performance was so powerful, in fact, that Richard Dreyfuss later claimed he himself was hardly acting, and couldn’t tear his eyes off Shaw while he recited the lines as Quint. The actor described the moment as “one of the most riveting things” he had “ever seen or heard.”
— Fitz (@fitzdog1167) August 22, 2015
Shaw and Dreyfuss feuded regularly on set
Dreyfuss warmly recalls Shaw when off set, but during filming the duo engaged in a number of feuds that may or may not have been friendly. Shaw reportedly turned a hose on Dreyfuss and even dared him to climb the Orca’s mast and jump into the sea. Dreyfuss, in turn, once threw Shaw’s glass of whiskey into the ocean when the actor mentioned that he wanted to stop drinking. Many people who were on the Jaws set remember their interplay as a way for Shaw to amp up their on-screen antagonism, in a style used by method actors.
Shaw passed away in 1978 at the young age of 51, but his performance in Jaws lives on. As the Mythbusters once again examine the iconic film, 40 years after its release, Shaw’s portrayal of Quint still resonates with fans for whom the shark hunter defines Jaws.
[Image: Universal via Cinemablend]