Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel Book Review
Written by ZigZag
Published by BearManor Media
Written by Louis R. Pisano and Michael A. Smith
2015, 362 pages, Reference
Book released on September 5th, 2015
Jaws (1975) needs no introduction. Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film adaptation of author Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel of the same name brought in waves of profits for Universal Studios. Producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck were determined to mine the tale for more cash, and set a sequel in motion. When Spielberg proved unavailable, the duo moved ahead without the seasoned captain and brought a new director aboard the project. John Hancock (Let’s Scare Jessica to Death) was hired and immediately set about casting the film and scouting locations. Roy Scheider and Lorraine Gary were signed to headline the cast, and the production did their best to surround them on both sides of the camera with familiar names and faces from the original film. Trouble began almost immediately after principal photography began, and soon Hancock was removed from the director’s chair and replaced by Jeannot Szwarc (Somewhere in Time). Filming resumed several weeks later, but not everyone in the cast returned. The stories surrounding the turmoil on this production are legion, but until now they have never been collected in one place. Authors Louis R. Pisano and Michael A. Smith attempt to correct this oversight with their new book Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel.
Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb contributes a humorously prescient Foreword to the book, in which he encourages readers to keep in mind that memories fade over time and that nobody really remembers the truth of what actually happened. Pisano and Smith have spent a great deal of time tracking down as many cast and crew members possible for this collection and conducted countless interviews with all involved. What follows is an impressive trip down memory lane as witnessed by those who worked on both versions of the film. Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel uncovers a generous number of original storyboard drawings that map out several key sequences, many involving the shark. The book also boasts a large number of rare behind-the-scenes photographs, including some showcasing the material shot under Hancock’s direction. Longtime fans of the film will be excited to finally get an inside look at what really happened on this troubled shoot.
There is no doubt that a book dedicated to the making of Jaws 2 is long overdue, but this one collapses under its own weight. For all the amazing information found in the pages within, what is sadly missing is a dedicated editor. The number of spelling and grammatical errors gradually increases as the reader progresses through the text, and in one instance a sentence simply trails off without end in order to break for some photographs, never to return. Topics are broken into general categories rather than separate chapter headings, and the interview participants are arranged alphabetically instead of by their actual level of involvement with the picture. It is all the more frustrating that some blocks of information appear to have been copied and pasted from one section to the next, as though these were originally intended to be released as separate essays.
Pisano and Smith have done such a thorough job in tracking down a parade of participants that their interviews would make for a better documentary than book. As it stands, a lot of the anecdotes are repeated ad infinitum and the majority of the content is culled from the memories of people that were let go before filming truly got underway. The secondary round of cast interviews continues to focus on the numerous supporting players and there is very little input from the main actors. When the authors land a major catch like Szwarc or Hancock, the questions become softballs gently lobbed in their vicinity. The book would benefit from archival interviews with those no longer with us, including Brown, Zanuck and Scheider. There is plenty of gossip to be found and much of it involves either Hancock’s ineptitude as a director, or Scheider’s pissy attitude in response to being “forced” to appear in the sequel.
The authors’ hearts are completely in the right place and their research is impressive, but somewhere in the final stages of assembly a lot of stupid mistakes were made and the finished product suffers for it. There is too much time spent with background actors and zero input from the guys that built the mechanical shark. The photographs are wonderful and rare and a real treasure, but are only in black and white. I can defend the decision by inferring that color reprints may have been more costly or that this was a creative decision to give the book a similar feel to Gottlieb’s legendary The Jaws Log chronicle of the original picture. Jaws 2 is not a perfect movie, but it has its supporters, and while Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel is not a terrible book, the film and its fans deserve better.