From the Marvel Comics 'Jaws 2' Super-Special, 1978

This interview has been edited.

SWIRES: What alterations did you make when you took over?

SZWARC: Since the script was already written and the cast already selected, all we could do was tighten things up by eliminating three of the characters and changing the emphasis of the last half of the picture. What I did, because the movie was so complicated, was to try to keep it simple. I knew from the beginning that complexity would kill us, so I tried to translate everything into a very classical, basic Hitchcockian kind of suspense. I also did a lot of subjectivity from the shark's point of view, by putting a camera on the shark and using a lot of dolly shots, so the audience could feel what it was like to be the shark. We even built a special machine to shoot underwater.

SWIRES: How did you handle the other built-in problems with a sequel?

SZWARC: I did a lot of homework on sequels. When you do a sequel, everybody always measures it against the first one. The other way is to repeat the same elements, but with enough difference and originality so that it doesn't look like a rip-off. Let's face it: Jaws 2 is not a picture that's going to be studied in film schools for years to come, and that applies to the first one as well. It's a Barnum and Bailey kind of film-it's broad entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that. The first assumption I made was that everybody who would see the sequel would have seen the original. Therefore, there should be no flashbacks. That meant the picture had to work on its own merits. My second assumption was that, at least subconsciously, the audience would want to see more of the shark-not in terms of screen time, but in terms of doing more extraordinary things. In Jaws, they didn't show the shark for the first half of the movie, which turned out to be an extraordinary artistic decision. Originally, however, they wanted to show the shark, but because of mechanical problems they had to change their intention. When I took over Jaws 2, all the people on it who had been involved with the first one told me not to show the shark again for the first half. If I had followed their advice, everybody would have accused me of taking the original and formulatizing it with a different story into a total rip-off, because the audience already knew about the shark and had already seen it.

SWIRES: You faced an even greater challenge in attempting to satisfy an audience that had also seen The Deep and Orca, in addition to Jaws.

SZWARC: I went for something else. There's much more physical excitement in Jaws 2, especially in the last thirty-five minutes. What we're talking about now is potatoes and caviar. They're not the same thing, but that doesn't mean that potatoes are bad. I'm capable of extraordinary intellectuality, but Jaws 2 wasn't that kind of picture. In terms of craft, I think it was well done-the photography by Michael Butler, was beautiful, the editing by Neil Travis, was superb, and the general level of acting was convincing. To be factual, the script was completely rewritten by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler.

SWIRES: Could you describe some of the problems that occurred in shooting the picture?

SZWARC: The problems occurred because what the shark had to do was so complicated. The helicopter scene, for example, was a nightmare. First of all, it was laughable on paper. Everybody read it and said: "We're never going to get that". In addition, we were out on the water a lot more than the first picture was. For the sequence in which all the boats ran into each other and turned over, we had to anchor every sailboat for its first position and for its final position, then run underwater lines for the trajectory, then put the shark in, then put the four cameras on various boats, then hope the wind wouldn't change, because every time it did we had to start from scratch.

SWIRES: How did it happen that the shark would work on some days and not work on others, when you spent so much money and hired so many expert technicians?

SZWARC: How come doctors can perform delicate heart transplants, but can't cure the common cold? It's the same thing. We were dealing with a machine that was displacing about two tons of water. Water is the heaviest thing there is, and it was the salt water, which means the corrosion was unbelievable. Also we were dealing with problems of flotation. The water and the tides changed all the time. It wasn't as if we could press a button and the shark would work automatically. It was all done by hydraulics and remote control. The shark was on the arm, which was attached to a platform that was on the bottom of the sea. The arm moved on the platform, either rising or lowering. Even if we had a perfect shark, the perimeters kept on changing. We couldn't even experiment with it, not until we were really doing it.

SWIRES: Did you personally supervise the underwater sequences by diving along with the cast and crew?

SZWARC: I did some diving, and some of it I had to farm out to a second unit, under Joe Alves, the production designer/associate producer. Since the picture had a release date before it was even started, we began editing and doing post-production while we were still shooting. The only pressure we were under, because we had calculated it, was that we had to get out of Florida by Christmas, or we would never make our June 16th release date. As it happened, we left Florida on December 23rd.

SWIRES: Why was it necessary to shoot in Florida, if the conditions there were so uncertain?

SZWARC: So much of the picture took place on the water that shooting at Martha's Vineyard was out of the question, just because of the water temperature. Also, we needed a depth of exactly thirty-two feet for the shark platform, and a minimum of tide. Finally, in that particular area of Florida there was a beach that looked very much like Amity Island.

SWIRES: What was the final budget of the film?

SZWARC: The original budget was $14 million. They had already spent a lot of money before I got into the act, and I don't know what the final cost was, because all the figures aren't in yet.

SWIRES: In retrospect, can you justify the film as a legitimate entity, or should it be viewed as just a sequel?

SZWARC: What you're really talking about is prejudice against sequels, which only pertains to films and American critics. In classical music and classical literature sequels have existed for centuries. Shakespeare wrote about five plays in which Falstaff was a character. Alexander Dumas wrote sequels until they came out his ears. Jaws 2 is a much better picture than anybody realizes. As time goes by, I think it will be recognized as such. The reviews of the film were identical to the reviews of Jaws. Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who now said the first one was great and Steven Spielberg is terrific, actually said the first was lousy and Steve was a television director who never should have made films. There's a difference between memory and actuality. When people talk about films they saw three or four years ago, it's like when they reminisce about their childhood-in retrospect everything seems better. I don't understand why people approached this film so seriously. It's a fantasy, a monster movie-it's Godzilla, except that it had top money and top talent. I used to be a film critic in my younger days, but now I have a very common sense approach toward film-I judge every film according to what it tries to achieve. Jaws 2 is an action adventure film, and should be seen in that light.

SWIRES: How well do you think you succeeded in achieving what you intended?

SZWARC: I think Jaws 2 is a very good sequel. You don't have to have seen the first one to enjoy it. I think it delivers.

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