To get a taste of the incredible archival material included in this edition, here’s a particularly amusing letter written by a polite but opinionated Peter Benchley to the film’s producer.
Letter from Peter Benchley to David Brown, Producer of the Film Version of Jaws
15 April, 1974
As I mentioned on the phone this morning, I am deeply troubled by some things in the
final draft screenplay of “Jaws.” I fear that if they were ever to appear on the screen, the picture
would be hooted at—not just by shark-freaks, but by general audiences, too—as an insane farce.
Furthermore, I think they detract for the suspense of the film.
I have several other, less important, reservations, and I’ll mention them in descending
order of concern.
First and most critical of all is the “rogue shark” concept. You said that Steve apparently
consulted some authority before taking this new tack. I, too, have consulted authorities, and my
sources agree with me that the concept is totally absurd. I’ll be glad to argue specifics any time,
but rather than write you a thesis here and now, I’d prefer to offer one artistic argument against
the rogue-shark thing: if you present this shark as a world-girdling maniac, responsible for nearly
every recorded shark-attack death, you destroy one of the central horrors of the story—namely
that a shark doesn’t have to be deranged to eat people. Eating people is normal, instinctual
behavior for great white sharks. There is profound terror in the normalcy of killing.
Also, to have Hooper claim to have tagged this shark reduces its menace and mystery. It
makes the shark approachable and familiar.
That leads me to Hooper, who, in general, strikes me as an insufferable, pedantic little
schmuck—not only pedantic, but ignorantly so, since many of the things he says about sharks are
either misleading or flatly wrong. He sounds like a textbook full of errors. Again, I’ll cite chapter
and verse to anyone who cares to listen.
Now, on to a few specific things that bothered me. I have tried to avoid picking nits
(things like the horseshoe crabs). And the things that trouble me least (which you may well
consider nits) I’ve saved for last.
Ellen’s gimmick with the travel brochures seems phony as hell. First of all, it’s a terrible
cliche. Second, if she’s married to Brody, she should realize what his position is. She comes off
as a nag, and since she vanishes almost immediately, we’re left with a vague, unresolved sense
that Brody has an unhappy marriage.
P. 13—Meadows’ speech about sharks and their swim bladders is wrong. He’s mixing
apples and oranges, and he compounds the felony by saying, “Don’t you know anything about
P. 40—Hooper would never be suckered into believing that a ten-foot blue shark killed
those people. Never.
P. 44—Brody seems here to be disbelieving the blue-shark theory. When did he change
P. 48—And when did Hooper suddenly change his mind about the blue shark as a
P. 55—Hooper claims to have seen the white shark before, and at close range. So how
come he says it’s only 17 feet long?
P. 65—Hooper says of the shark, “It knows where you live.” He is anthropomorphizing,
something that he would be the first to argue against. God, he’s an inconsistent character!
P. 78—What suddenly changes Brody from a man terrified of the water to a man eager to
join Quint? I remember discussing this change-of-heart at great length. It seems to have been
resolved by ignoring it.
The following are relatively minor:
P. 5—The bloody billboard is still there, I see. I feebly repeat that it is way out of
character for the town.
P. 23—Someone named Denherder makes a reference to a sporting charter on
Valentine’s Day. I know of no one on the East Coast who would go fishing on February 14th,
for, among other reasons, there are no game fish around on February 14th.
P. 24—Brody says, “But nobody sport-fishes for sharks!” If this is intended to make him
seem stupid, it succeeds. If it is meant as a fact, it is wrong.
P. 30—If Hooper is a diver, he’s unlikely to be bearded. Beards get in the way. Bearded
divers exist, of course, but why even raise the question in the audience’s mind?
P. 35—This, I admit, is a nit, but I’ll pick it anyway. Here and on the following page it is
clear that Steve doesn’t know guns. Fine. I assume there will be someone on location who will
know that, for instance, a .30 caliber rifle doesn’t fire a ‘wad’ and couldn’t ruin rigging.
P. 76—Hooper refers to Ipswitch, Maine. There may be an Ipswitch, Maine, but a more
familiar Ipswich is in Massachusetts.
There you have it. I am aware that 1) film is a directors’ medium, 2) my part in the
entertainment has long since technically ended, and 3) you may well decide to make this letter
into a paper airplane and skim it off the top of the Tower. But I did want to convey these points,
if only to vent my spleen.
As I have said (and said, and said), I would be willing—nay, eager—to meet and work
with Steve, should he deem it helpful.
PS/ What makes me angriest of all is that you didn’t tell me you had already made and released
the movie of “Jaws.” I had to find out from the clipping I’ve appended below.
A free sample excerpt from this book is available for download on the product page now.
NOOK owners: go to shop and search for ‘Peter Benchley’ to download this American classic.
You must be a registered user to add a comment here. If you've already registered, please log in. If you haven't registered yet, please register and log in.