Director Steven Spielberg helped usher in the age of blockbusters with his 1975 hit Jaws. To bring the story of a killer great white shark to life, Spielberg used multiple mechanized versions, as this was a time of practical effects before CGI took hold (which Spielberg also helped usher in with Jurassic Park). And because an actual model was used, it can be put on display for all to see, and that is exactly what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be doing.
Currently under construction is a new museum for the Academy, which is best known for handing out Oscars. In it they will display a plethora of cinema memorabilia, and it has been announced that the infamous shark will be part of the collection. Yahoo News provides an interesting look into the history of the shark, or rather, sharks.
A total of four mechanical models of the shark were made, each 25-feet long. They were designed by Joe Alves, a production designer and art director whose credits include Escape from New York, The Sugarland Express, and Jaws 2 (he also directed Jaws 3-D). Each shark was given the nickname ‘Bruce,’ inspired by Bruce Ramer, Spielberg’s lawyer at the time. Notoriously, the sharks were a source of constant problems, as they malfunctioned throughout the shoot (and even sank), forcing Spielberg to alter how to film them and how much screen time the shark was given (which arguably made it an even more menacing threat).
While four models were designed, only one survives today. Three were made with latex that deteriorated in later years. The fourth one proved durable due to the use of fiberglass, as it was intended to be used for promotional events. This ‘Bruce’ had been installed in Universal Studios Hollywood as a photo-op for visitors, but because of this exposure, it suffered damage over the years, but found new life when it was shipped to Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking in California, “a graveyard for discarded Universal props and vehicles.” There it remained for over 30 years.
The Aadlen Brothers decided to shut down shop recently, and thought to donate Bruce to the Academy. As Yahoo News notes, it will be the largest object in the collection. It will have company too, as a fin used in Jaws and Jaws 2 will also be added to the collection.
That is quite the long path to travel for a shark that sank when it entered into the water. But it’s great such a famous piece of cinema history will be kept alive and available for viewing by movie lovers. It almost makes you wish more such props weren’t being replaced by CGI, so that a real life, working, and iconic piece of a film could be given a similar second life (But at least BB-8 is real).
Beyond Bruce, the Academy Museum has a collection that includes 62,000 pieces of production art, 12 million photographs, 80,000 screenplays, 55,000 posters, and countless storyboards, production notes, correspondence, and diaries. It will house such iconic props like a model horse head used in The Godfather, masks from Planet of the Apes, and the ruby slippers and lion’s mane from The Wizard of Oz.
The museum will open in 2017 in the historic May Company building in Los Angeles.