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Jaws: The Feud Between Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss Off-Screen

Published on November 6th, 2023 | Updated on November 28th, 2023 | By FanFest

Jaws Production Challenges and Legendary Robert Shaw-Richard Dreyfuss Feud

Jaws Behind The Scenes

The production of the iconic movie “Jaws” offers a story as captivating as the film itself. Faced with a series of challenges, from adverse weather conditions to script revisions and the persistent malfunction of the mechanical shark, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece encountered numerous setbacks and complications. These hurdles inflated the budget to a staggering $12 million and extended the shooting schedule from the originally planned 55 days to an arduous 159 days. Spielberg himself has described the experience of directing “Jaws” as nothing short of “horrendous,” and he wasn’t the only one who endured the tumultuous filming process on Martha’s Vineyard.

Two of the film’s stars, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, found themselves caught up in the turmoil. Shaw portrayed the grizzled shark hunter Quint, while Dreyfuss took on the role of the passionate ichthyologist Hooper. Interestingly, the animosity between their characters on screen wasn’t limited to the film’s plot. Throughout the production, Shaw and Dreyfuss famously clashed repeatedly, and their off-screen interactions would go on to infuse their onscreen relationship with an authenticity that blurred the boundaries between fiction and reality.

Why Didn’t Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss Get Along?

Why Didn't Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss Get Along

During the production of the 1974 film “Jaws,” Robert Shaw, a seasoned actor with a classical theater background, found himself working alongside Richard Dreyfuss, a talented but relatively inexperienced actor who had only a few film credits to his name at the time. According to Roy Scheider, another co-star in the film, Shaw was less than impressed with Dreyfuss and perceived him as arrogant, given his limited stage experience. Scheider recalled, “Shaw really believed that Dreyfuss needed a reality check, thinking of him as a young upstart who lacked the proper stage experience.” Co-screenwriter of “Jaws,” Carl Gottlieb, shed further light on the origins of the conflict, describing Shaw as a “troublemaker” and an “instigator” who enjoyed provoking his colleagues.

Robert Shaw seemed to take particular delight in getting under Richard Dreyfuss’s skin during their time on the set of “Jaws.” In the 2010 documentary “Jaws: The Inside Story,” Dreyfuss revealed, “On our way to the set, he would transform into some malevolent force, making me the target of his antics.” To Dreyfuss’s chagrin, Shaw engaged in various forms of psychological torment. Prior to shooting a scene, he would admonish his younger co-star to “mind his mannerisms” and goad him into taking risks. Director Steven Spielberg remembered, “Robert would essentially goad Richard into taking chances by humiliating him. Robert would say, ‘I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you climb to the top of the mast on the Orca and jump into the water.'” Shaw didn’t hold back when it came to critiquing Dreyfuss’s physical appearance either, going so far as to label him as “chubby” and “disheveled.”

Alongside his naturally confrontational disposition, Shaw’s reputation as a notorious drinker ignited a particularly fiery confrontation with Dreyfuss. During a particularly tense day of filming on the legendary Orca for the movie, Robert Shaw was clutching a glass of bourbon and approached his co-star, beseeching, “‘Lend a hand, Richard?'” Dreyfuss’ notion of assisting his fellow actor took an unproductive turn, and according to Steven Spielberg, “Richard swiped the shot glass from Robert’s grasp and hurled it out the window.” While the exact chain of events that ensued remains somewhat unclear, Dreyfuss revealed that his defiant act seemed to strike a nerve among others who imbibed in the cast and crew, prompting Spielberg to comment, “It triggered a major uproar.” Dreyfuss, in recounting the incident, further noted that Shaw, during the shooting of a later scene that day, retaliated by positioning himself behind the camera and pointing a fire extinguisher toward him as he performed.

Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss’ Feud Translated To Their Performances

Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss' Feud Translated To Their Performances

We can only speculate about the extent to which the feud between Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss influenced their performances in the iconic film, “Jaws.” However, considering what is known about their working relationship, it’s difficult to ignore the possibility that their shared animosity played a role in conveying the mutual animosity between their characters, Quint and Hooper, on screen. Right from their first encounter, with Quint teasing Hooper for being a wealthy city dweller and Hooper defiantly rejecting Quint’s “working-class hero” attitude, the tension and underlying resentment between the two characters are immediately evident.

Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss' Feud Translated To Their Performances

Despite their consistently adversarial interactions, their tumultuous relationship injects moments of levity into their quest to apprehend a man-eating shark. From engaging in contests to see who can crush beer cans and plastic cups more effectively to exchanging witty verbal jabs, Quint and Hooper provide comic relief in the midst of a dire situation. These moments give the audience a chance to connect with and appreciate the distinct personalities at play.

While “Jaws” is undeniably a classic thriller, renowned for its terrifying moments and breathtaking spectacle, it also stands out for its skillful depiction of drama and suspense through the evolving dynamics among its three central characters. It’s clear that the off-screen tension and clashes between Shaw and Dreyfuss contributed to the overall sense of authenticity and believability in the film.

Despite Their Feud, Richard Dreyfuss Has Fond Memories of Robert Shaw

While Richard Dreyfuss might have had a challenging working relationship with Robert Shaw during the production of Jaws, the passing decades have seen him bestow well-deserved accolades upon his one-time rival. Shaw, known for his highly competitive and theatrical nature on the film set, often overshadowed his more compassionate side with his larger-than-life public persona. However, Dreyfuss has since shed light on the veteran actor’s private demeanor, revealing a kinder and gentler side.

“In private, he was the kindest, gentlest, funniest guy you ever met,” Dreyfuss remarked in 2010, challenging the perception of Shaw created by his on-screen intensity. This appreciation for his late co-star would resurface during a talk show appearance, where an unexpected encounter added a touching dimension to their relationship.

Prior to his interview, Dreyfuss found himself backstage, introduced to one of Robert Shaw’s granddaughters. The emotional impact of the encounter was palpable as he recounted the experience, stating, “It was like closure. You have no idea how grand and large he was, and it was like he was alive again. I was thrilled to meet her.”

As it turns out, this was not the only instance where Dreyfuss had an unexpected rendezvous with a member of Shaw’s family, further cementing the enduring bond between the two actors beyond the lens of Jaws.

Robert Shaw’s Son Co-Wrote and Starred in a Play About the Making of ‘Jaws’

Robert Shaw's Son Co-Wrote and Starred in a Play About the Making of 'Jaws

Years after its remarkable success, Jaws stands as an iconic illustration of how the tumultuous journey of filmmaking can elevate a production to legendary heights. Despite grappling with logistical challenges and an array of seemingly unending issues throughout the filming process, Steven Spielberg and his trio of lead actors inadvertently found a silver lining in their surplus idle time, enabling them to delve deeper into the human aspects of their cinematic creation. Exploring this intriguing notion, Ian Shaw, the son of Robert Shaw and a striking likeness of his father, collaborated on a stage play that centers around the untold stories of the 1975 blockbuster. Premiering in the United Kingdom in 2019, The Shark is Broken received an enthusiastic reception and subsequently graced the stages of Broadway.

Before Ian Shaw penned and performed in The Shark is Broken, he crossed paths with Richard Dreyfuss while the latter was gearing up to direct a theatrical rendition of Hamlet. However, when the two met, the reception Shaw anticipated didn’t quite materialize. “I walked into that meeting expecting Richard to be overjoyed to see me,” he recollects. To his surprise, Dreyfuss initially displayed a reaction far from delight. “He had the look of someone who had just encountered a ghost, and not a friendly one,” Shaw recounts. Although the exact nature of their exchange remains undisclosed, it is reasonable to assume that Shaw’s uncanny resemblance to his iconic father stirred bittersweet memories of Dreyfuss’s time on the set of Jaws.

Jaws is available to stream on Netflix


Quick summary

  1. “Jaws Production Challenges”: This article delves into the arduous production of the iconic movie “Jaws,” covering budget overruns, mechanical shark malfunctions, and the extended shooting schedule that plagued Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece. Spielberg himself described the experience as “horrendous.”
  2. “Legendary Robert Shaw-Richard Dreyfuss Feud”: The piece sheds light on the heated off-screen rivalry between actors Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, who portrayed Quint and Hooper in the film. Their clashes and animosity contributed to the authenticity of their on-screen characters’ turbulent relationship.
  3. “Robert Shaw’s Legacy and Family Involvement”: The article concludes by exploring how Richard Dreyfuss has fond memories of Robert Shaw despite their feud, and it highlights Robert Shaw’s son, Ian Shaw, who co-wrote and starred in a play about the making of “Jaws,” providing a unique perspective on the film’s production.

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