Steven Spielberg Once Confirmed ‘Jaws’ Would Be ‘Less Scary’ If Made Today

Steven Spielberg has delivered countless blockbuster hits since his directorial debut in 1971’s Duel. But Jaws was the first one to get the kind of box office returns and critical raves the filmmaker later became known for. That movie set the tone not only for the summer movie season but also for even greater commercial successes to come in Spielberg’s career. But even he admitted the movie would be less scary if made today.

Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw on board a boat in 'Jaws'
Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw | Universal Studios

‘Jaws’ is 1 of the most beloved Steven Spielberg movies

Way back in 1975, no one knew quite what to expect from Jaws. Certainly, audiences didn’t anticipate the movie would become a pop culture phenomenon. To date, the movie has earned $471 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. And its impact on blockbuster filmmaking continues to this day.

Although Jaws isn’t Spielberg’s most critically acclaimed film, it’s certainly in the conversation. The movie — along with 1977’s Star Wars — helped solidify the summer months as the go-to season for studios to release their most expensive, thrilling, and crowd-pleasing releases. Jaws‘ legacy has only grown more vital with time.

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The director admitted the downside of a ‘digital shark’

Over the years, Spielberg has been very candid about the limitations of working with the mechanical shark on Jaws. In fact, he credits that experience to why he had no interest in participating in any of the sequels. But according to reports, he also admits that his use of digital effects now would have made the movie worse.

“I’m as guilty as anyone [of relying on visual effects] because I helped to herald the digital era with Jurassic Park. But the danger is that it can be abused to the point where nothing is eye-popping anymore. The difference between making Jaws 31 years ago and War of the Worlds is that today, anything I can imagine, I can realize on film.

Then, when my mechanical shark was being repaired and I had to shoot something, I had to make the water scary. I relied on the audience’s imagination, aided by where I put the camera. Today, it would be a digital shark. It would cost a hell of a lot more but never break down. As a result, I probably would have used it four times as much, which would have made the film four times less scary. Jaws is scary because of what you don’t see, not because of what you do. We need to bring the audience back into partnership with storytelling.

The sequels to Jaws definitely helped prove Spielberg’s point. With poorer visual effects and less compelling stories, what became the Jaws franchise is a testament to the “less is more” approach to visual effects. Meanwhile, Spielberg’s movie remains as beloved now as ever before.

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Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ releases in 2021

With everything Spielberg has accomplished to date, fans might assume there’s little new he can do. And yet, 2021 brings his entrance into a whole new genre: musicals. After decades of wanting to make a movie musical of his own, Spielberg offers his take of the 1961 classic West Side Story.

The film — which stars Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort — might not have the digital effects that Jaws 2021 would have. But Spielberg is sure to bring his filmmaking flair to the forefront. The director has spoken about why he feels the story is due for a revisit. Fans will get their chance to see West Side Story on Dec. 10, 2021.