Fantasy, horror and sci-fi fans are known for the many, many things they use to show their appreciation of the franchises they love: cosplay, fan films, collectible collections, websites, and so on. Yet it's a rare situation when fans take the initiative to research and document the behind-the-scene details of the more obscure and less glamorous aspects of their favorite films and TV shows. Such is the case of Jaws 2: The Making of The Hollywood Sequel, which was written by Louis R. Pisano and Michael A. Smith and published by BearManor Media. Read on for my complete review of this long overdue treat for Jaws franchise fans.
It's no secret among Jaws fans that the production of Jaws 2 was a troubled one, that it went through two directors (first John Hancock, then Jeannot Szwarc), multiple screenwriters, cast changes and script rewrites before finally arriving on the silver screen in 1978. Pisano and Smith’s book lays out in detail exactly how tumultuous the production really was, for both cast and crew alike. The production troubles Steven Spielberg encountered while filming Jaws has become the stuff of Hollywood legend; in contrast, Jaws 2's arrival at the box office as a finished, coherent film is proof that miracles can happen, even to creature feature sequels.
The book is divided into four segments: a summary of the production of Jaws 2; interviews with the sequel's cast and crew; a "Where are they now?" section that provides brief descriptions of the lives of the cast and crew after the sequel's release; and a few pages devoted to comments from fans who love Jaws 2. These segments are bookended by an introduction and conclusion about the profitability of sequels to summer blockbusters and where Jaws 2 fits within the history of this trend. The book also includes hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes pictures, including photos taken from a 2012 Jaws 2 cast reunion. Video footage of this reunion was part of Pisano’s Jaws-ome JawsFest 4: Revenge of the Finatics DVD.
On the saltwater set of Jaws 2.
Of the four segments, the interviews take up the bulk of the book's content and are truly the centerpiece of what it contributes to franchise lore. The interviews are exhaustive in scope, including people who were hired by John Hancock and then let go after Hancock was pulled from the movie. Malfunctioning mechanical sharks were far from the only problems faced by the production team of Jaws 2, and the interviews provide valuable insight into the sequel's lengthy production process and how the studio's internal squabbling complicated the situation.
With such a comprehensive set of interviews, fans get a clearer picture of what kind of film Jaws 2 could have been had Hancock stayed with the film, as well as the events that led up to Universal’s dismissal of Hancock and what Szwarc had to work with when he took over as director. Of the many anecdotes told in the interviews, the most amusing for me was the one surrounding the character named "Bob Burnsides", who was played by Billy Van Zandt. In an early draft of the script, Bob was supposed to be bitten in half by the shark. After Szwarc assumed directorial duties, Bob was still scheduled to be killed by the shark but no one could determine how this would happen. Other death scenes were envisioned: one had Bob’s legs getting chewed off, while another had Bob being pulled underwater by the shark. Yet in the final cut of Jaws 2, Bob survives so that the film could keep its PG rating (!). Apparently, the amount of on-screen deaths could make the difference between a PG and an R rating, regardless of how much blood and gore is shown (or not shown).
One of the many deaths of Bob Burnsides (Billy Van Zandt).
Since the book's thesis centers on Jaws 2 being the first sequel to a summer blockbuster and the first sequel to a franchise that's based on a summer blockbuster, it would have been nice for it to include a chapter on how the film was marketed to the public. (Fun trivia fact: Jaws 2 holds the distinction of being the only film in its franchise to have tie-in coloring books.) It also would have be interesting to see some insights into how the stormy production of the first sequel impacted the franchise as it moved forward for two more sequels. Franchise vets Joe Alves and Carl Gottlieb were interviewed for this book (Gottlieb also wrote the book’s foreword) and both were involved in the subsequent production of Jaws 3; however, neither says anything about if or how Jaws 2 influenced Universal's decision to make--and its attitude towards--the next sequel.
If you're a Jaws film purist who gets a case of the vapours just thinking about the sequels, then learning more about the production of Jaws 2 isn't for you. Jaws 2: The Making of The Hollywood Sequel was written by Jaws fans for Jaws fans who have an avid interest in the history of the franchise, and it belongs on the same bookshelf as other franchise tomes as The Jaws Log and Jaws: Memories of Martha's Vineyard. It is available in both softcover and hardcover editions through BearManor Media. Click here to order your copy.
Fun trivia fact: The comic book and novel adaptations of Jaws 2 were
based on an early script draft, not the final shooting script.