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Commemorating a Killer Sequel (And the Lasting Friendships It Spawned)
Fantastic interviews by The Daily Jaws highlight the 45th anniversary of "Jaws 2."
I’ve mentioned before in this newsletter that the original Jaws is one of my all-time favorite films. What I probably didn’t reveal is that Jaws 2 is one of my favorite movie sequels. I think such cinematic sentiment is fairly rare. When someone views a film as an absolute masterpiece, mere mention of a sequel tends to annoy. If feels cheap and forced, and with the bar set so high by the original, it’s extremely difficult for any follow-up to meet fans’ expectations.
But Jaws 2 largely did, not because it was a better or equal film to the first (it wasn’t), but because it stayed true to the spirit and lore of the original, told a well-constructed story, and produced some surprisingly strong performances that kept the human element at the movie’s forefront.
What the film didn’t have going for it was the star-power of the original. Roy Scheider returned as Chief Brody, but not exactly by choice. He did it very reluctantly (after the horrific film-conditions of the first film) to fulfill a contractual obligation to Universal (and earn a much bigger check than he did for the first one). Like with the original Jaws, filming on the ocean proved very difficult. The production was further complicated by major re-writes and the director and several actors being replaced part way through. Scheider was not a happy camper. He was very closed off both mentally and physically from the rest of the cast, often expressing irritation and getting into arguments with the crew. Audiences would never have guessed any of this, since Scheider’s performance remained top-notch, but without Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw to share scenes, it was largely up to an unknown cast of young actors playing high-schoolers to make the audience care about the shark’s potential victims.
And care they did.
The movie became the highest-grossing sequel in history (up until that point) and is generally remembered quite fondly by diehard fans of the original.
While the effects, action scenes, and Scheider’s return role are probably what people most remember from the film, the supporting performances should not be overlooked. While some people over the years have compared the plot formula to that of a slasher film (naive, horny teens stalked and offed by an impenetrable killer), the teens in this case (at least a number of them) are hard not to invest in emotionally — from the world’s most loyal and compassionate babysitter (Marge), to the wise-cracking knucklehead who steps up as a big-brother type when it’s most needed (Andy), to the traumatized beauty queen (Tina) who can barely spit out what happened to her missing boyfriend.
Ross Williams, an enormous fan of everything-Jaws, runs a wonderful online tribute to the franchise called The Daily Jaws. If you’re not following it on social media, make sure you do. The sheer volume of insightful information and fun imagery Ross and his team provide on a daily basis in something to behold. I’ve written for the site myself, and can’t recommend it highly enough.
To recognize Jaws 2’s 45th anniversary just a few weeks ago, Ross conducted a series of really great video-interviews with much of the film’s cast and crew. I’ve been checking the interviews out in my spare time, and they’re a wealth of fascinating stories about what went on behind the scenes. What I’ve found particularly interesting (and endearing) are stories of the long-lasting friendships that were born from the film.
There’s a common misconception from movie fans that actors and actresses who starred in hugely successful, culturally iconic films are all lifelong friends who still hang out with each other on a regular basis. That’s not typically the case. These people work with each other for a limited time, do whatever promotion needs to be done afterwards, and then — for the most part — go their separate ways.
But Jaws 2 was very much an exception to the rule. The young group of actors and actresses, many of whom virtually disappeared from in front of the cameras after filming, remained lifelong friends.
Several are still in regular contact almost a half-century later, and even live in the same neighborhoods. Their youthfulness and energy back then certainly stoked these relationships, but so did the labor of love. Similar to more traditional co-workers who develop friendships through countless hours of hard, stressful work, these actors and actresses filmed Jaws 2 over the span of almost an entire year (far longer than most movie projects last, even for back then).
While none of them went on to become big Hollywood stars (though several have led impressive careers), they not only carved out a significant spot for themselves in cinematic history, but maintained the type of strong, lasting connection you would expect from the characters they portrayed.
I think that’s pretty cool, and thought it was worth sharing this week.
To check out Ross’s interviews (which I highly recommend), click here. Fans of the movie and franchise will no doubt enjoy them.
Have a favorite memory from Jaws 2? Let me know about it in an email or in the comment section below.
My family and I spent last Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, rubbing shoulders with film and television celebrities… along with a kazillion fellow fans (many of them elaborately dressed up as super-heroes, aliens, and monsters).
Fan Expo Denver, formerly known as Denver Comic-Con, is an annual event celebrating fandom of all kinds. It was the first one we’ve gone to, and based on how people attended (it’s apparently one of the largest fan conventions in the United States), it may be our last. (The craziness probably warrants its own newsletter edition, but I decided to pass on that.)
Still, there were highlights that, for me, made the experience worth it… including meeting and listening to iconic actor (and super nice guy) Henry Winkler. I think at least my son (pictured below with Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) would probably agree.
Perhaps the biggest revelation of the day: Matthew Lillard of Scream fame has an absolutely enormous and dedicated fan following. Who knew? Good for him.
More pictures from the event can be found on my Instagram account.
Obligatory Dragon Shot
“Smile you son of a…” (Jaws callback).
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Speaking of anniversaries…
In the summer or 2018, my wife and I planned a Seattle vacation around a special concert. It was a 25th anniversary show commemorating the release of Candlebox’s first album. Candlebox is a longtime favorite band of mine, and what made the event particularly meaningful was that it featured the original member-lineup, which hadn’t been together since 1997. The foursome played in their hometown (where their international stardom had begun), among friends and family — every song on the album, in order. It was a fantastic and very memorable night. I’ve seen the band live a number of times, and that was by far the best show among them. The rest of the trip was a blast as well.
So, when the band announced another reunion of the original line-up for November of 2021 — two shows in Seattle commemorating the anniversary of their second album — I was half tempted to check into airline tickets. But the time of year (late fall in Seattle), lingering COVID concerns, and the price-tag turned me off the idea. What I didn’t find out until very recently is that one of those shows — an acoustic set at the Neptune Theatre — was recorded. And just last week, it was released on vinyl.
Vinyl tends to bring live performances to life in a way newer mediums don’t, and I love that the band decided to release the show as an album. I features stripped-down versions of some of their biggest hits, as well as some not-so mainstream fan favorites, like “Blossom.”
It’s a great listen.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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