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Film

The reason Steven Spielberg didn't take on the 'Jaws' sequel

@Russellisation

There’s a reason why sharks are the most feared predators in the ocean, despite a whole host of strange marine creatures being a whole lot scarier, with Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie being one of the main antagonists. 

Arriving in the mid-1970s amid the departure of the archaic Hollywood studio system behind, Jaws became one of the most revolutionary movies of all time when it created a whole new type of film entirely; the blockbuster. Masterfully made, Jaws became the highest-grossing film in movie history upon its release, earning more than $100 million in rentals, with Hollywood quickly taking notice of the film’s significant success and unprecedented popularity.

Earning several Oscar nominations at the 48th Academy Awards including for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Sound, Jaws was seen as a phenomenal success that changed the way Hollywood looked at its own industry. Inevitably, merchandise and sequels followed, with the unimaginatively named Jaws 2 coming out three years later in 1978, this time without the stewardship of Steven Spielberg.

Producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck stayed onboard for the sequel project, as did Roy Scheider in the lead role, though Spielberg opted out, turning his nose up at the idea of an unnecessary sequel. Without even responding to the offer of returning from Brown and Zanuck, Spielberg was quoted as saying at the time, “making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick,” an ethos he clearly forgot when the Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park films started making money in 1980s and 1990s. 

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Arguing that he’d already made the definite shark movie, Spielberg was adamant about not returning to the franchise, leaving Jeannot Szwarc to helm the movie instead. Without Spielberg at the helm, Jaws 2 failed to earn even half of the box office revenue of the first movie, leaving audiences cold, missing the mastery of the iconic American filmmaker. 

Decades later, Spielberg felt more comfortable explaining to the press why he never returned to the Jaws franchise, telling the public that he didn’t return due to the emotional toll of the first movie’s production. 

As reported by The Express in 2022, Spielberg confessed, “[I didn’t come back for the Jaws sequels] because making the first movie was a nightmare. There were endless problems with the shark and it was an impossible shoot. I thought my career was over because no one had ever taken a movie 100 days over schedule”. So scarred by the movie, he added that, despite the success of the revolutionary film, he “never wanted to go near the water again”. 

The Jaws franchise slowly faded from relevance beyond the ‘70s, with Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge failing to maintain the interests of audiences who had moved on to bigger and better franchises in the busy 1980s movie industry. The original film certainly remains the most definitive of the shark movie genre, with nothing coming anywhere near the intensity of Spielberg’s classic.