Richard Dreyfuss' Kids Revisit 'Jaws,' Conclude It Makes No Sense
This is the season for news stories about shark bites. It's also the season when some theater somewhere will play Jaws, the 1975 thriller in which three men go hunting for a man-eating shark. One of them is a marine biologist played by Richard Dreyfuss, whose daughter, journalist Emily Dreyfuss, rewatched the movie just the other day.
Afterward, she talked about her impressions with her brother, Ben Dreyfuss, also a journalist, and the two published their chat on Mother Jones. Their conclusion? Between their dad's character's laughable attempt to kill the shark and the shark hunters' insistence on using a rickety old boat instead of one that was sonar-equipped, the film doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
They tell NPR's Steve Inskeep that, as it turns out, the movie is quite different from what they remembered.
On forgetting who really said, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
Emily: When [people] hear that my dad is Richard Dreyfuss, they love to say that line to me and tweak it, like: "We're gonna need a bigger taxi." And so because I hear it so much, I really did assume it was his line.
Ben: Our entire lives, when people come up to my dad, that's the line they quote. ... They don't say, "This was no boating accident"; they always say Scheider's line. And it's a running joke with my dad that he's like, "I imagine that Roy Scheider [is] just constantly rolling his eyes and going like, 'God, Richard!' " ...
He's always clarified and been like, "Oh, thank you, I appreciate it, that's lovely. Um, that was Roy Scheider. I was the fellow with the beard." One time he and I were in Miami and he corrected someone and the person looked at him and said, "No, you said it," and walked away.
On how it all ends [Editor's note: Spoiler alert. Obviously.]
Emily: I really thought my dad was the hero. Not that he wasn't heroic, but I thought he killed the shark basically single-handedly and then swam home.
Ben: I had just seen Jaws last year when my mother had said, "Oh, look, Jaws is on. My favorite part is when dad kills the shark." And I was like, "Dad didn't kill the shark." And, she was like, "Shut up, Ben. I was married to him. He killed Jaws." And so we watched it and, of course, he doesn't kill Jaws. And she was like, "Oh, wow, I guess he doesn't kill Jaws. I've been telling people I've been married to Roy Scheider, I guess."
On whether — if he didn't kill the shark or deliver the film's most famous line — their dad's character is still a hero
Emily: I would say he definitely is. Because he's the only person who takes it seriously, and without him the beaches would have never have been closed and they never would have set out to kill the shark at all. So after rethinking ... it, I would say he is definitely a hero.
Ben: When he goes down in the cage, that's the most brave act of the whole film. Like, he's in the water, they basically all know he's probably going to get killed in that situation. He made the brave act of going to fight that shark with a pole. And I mean, that takes chutzpah.
Emily: He was gonna shoot it with a tiny needle!
Ben: Yeah, with a little stick pole!
On what their dad thought of their review of Jaws
Ben: Well he tweeted ... " 'Jaws' Is Ridiculous, Say [Kids] Who Are [Now] Out Of The Will." But I think that was with love.
Emily: The truth is our dad is so incredibly supportive of anything we do ever. I spoke to him and he was just tickled.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
This is the season for new stories about shark bites and also the season when some theater somewhere will play a certain 1970s thriller.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAWS THEME SONG")
INSKEEP: Three men go hunting for great white shark, hoping to kill it before it eats them, chief. One is a marine biologist played by Richard Dreyfuss whose daughter, Emily, watched the movie just the other day.
EMILY DREYFUSS: I went and saw it because it was so hot in Boston I needed to be air-conditioned, and my husband pointed out that the movie theater right by our house was playing "Jaws." And my gut reaction was, I don't want to go see "Jaws" in a movie theater. That's going to be totally weird. And then he reminded me that neither of us had seen it in years and that maybe it would be funny. And it was awesome.
INSKEEP: Afterward, Emily Dreyfuss got talking with her brother, Ben. Both Dreyfuss children are journalists, so naturally their chat ended up published in Mother Jones. In it, they conclude that one of the greatest movies ever does not make much sense - also re-watching a movie they first saw as kids reveals it's different than they remembered.
E. DREYFUSS: It turns out I barely remembered it. I really thought my dad was the hero - not that he wasn't heroic. But I thought he killed the shark, basically single-handedly, and then swam home.
BEN DREYFUSS: I had just seen "Jaws" last year when my mother had said, oh, look "Jaws" is on - my favorite part is when dad kills the shark. And I was like, dad doesn't kill the shark. She was like, shut up, Ben, I was married to him. He killed "Jaws." And so we watched it, and of course he doesn't kill "Jaws." And she was like, oh, wow. I guess he doesn't kill jaws. I've been telling people I was married to Roy Schneider, I guess.
INSKEEP: (Laughing) I guess we should indicate for people, the few people who maybe haven't seen "Jaws," that for a good part of the movie, there's three guys on a boat. And one of them is Richard Dreyfuss, who's an oceanographer; one is Roy Scheider, who's the local sheriff; and then there's Robert Shaw, who was the one guy who was supposed to know what he's doing on the boat there basically.
E. DREYFUSS: Yeah, but he's also a manic with post-traumatic stress disorder.
INSKEEP: Well, there's always that. But that's good for shark hunting, isn't it?
E. DREYFUSS: Yes.
INSKEEP: OK. Maybe the most famous single-line from the entire move is, we're going to need a bigger boat.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAWS")
ROY SCHEIDER: (As Brody) We're going to need a bigger boat.
INSKEEP: You write that you misremembered that line.
E. DREYFUSS: So I'm constantly dealing with people, when they hear that my dad is Richard Dreyfuss, they love to say that line to me and tweak it, like, we're going to need a bigger taxi. Because I hear it so much, I really did assume it was his line.
B. DREYFUSS: Our entire lives, when people come up to my dad, that's the line they always quote, and it's always been, like - they don't say, like...
E. DREYFUSS: This was no boating accident.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAWS")
RICHARD DREYFUSS: (As Hooper) Well, this is not a boat accident.
B. DREYFUSS: They always say Scheider's line, and it's been a running joke with my dad that he's like, I imagine that Roy Scheider was just constantly, like, rolling his eyes and going like, God, Richard.
INSKEEP: (Laughing) So does your dad just own it and act like he did in fact say we're going to need a bigger boat?
B. DREYFUSS: No. I think he's always clarified and been like, oh thank you, I appreciate it, that's lovely, that was Roy Scheider...
B. DREYFUSS: ...I was the fellow with the beard. One time he and I were in Miami, and he corrected someone. And the person looked at him and said, no, you said it, and walked away. And we were like, oh.
INSKEEP: Now, one of the things that you said in this article that made no sense to you was that in fact there should have been a bigger boat.
B. DREYFUSS: Yeah.
E. DREYFUSS: They had a bigger boat.
B. DREYFUSS: They had a bigger boat. They had a really nice, sonar-equipped boat that then Quint says, no, we're going to take the Orca. It's the one that's falling down. We're going to get on that boat and go out to the sea. And they agree to that for reasons passing understanding.
INSKEEP: So what did your dad think about your review of his 39-year-old movie?
E. DREYFUSS: Brother?
B. DREYFUSS: Well, he tweeted that it was "Jaws" ridiculous, say children who are out of the will. But I think that was with love.
E. DREYFUSS: No. The truth is our dad is so incredibly supportive of anything we do, ever. I spoke to him, and he was just tickled.
INSKEEP: Well, that leads to one last thing. You noted that your dad's character is not the one who kills the shark, nor does he even said most famous line - we're going to need a bigger boat. You debate whether he is a hero in the film or not.
E. DREYFUSS: And I would say he definitely is because he's the only person who takes it seriously. And without him, the beaches would never have been closed, and they never would've set out to kill a shark at all. So after rethinking about it, I would say he's definitely a hero.
B. DREYFUSS: When he goes down in the cage, that's the most brave act of the whole film. Like, he's in the water. They basically all know he's probably going to get killed in that situation. He made the brave act of going to fight that shark with a pole. And, I mean, that takes chutzpah.
E. DREYFUSS: He was going to shoot it with a tiny needle.
B. DREYFUSS: Yeah, with a little stick pole.
INSKEEP: Well, Ben and Emily Dreyfuss, it's been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you very much.
B. DREYFUSS: Thank you.
E. DREYFUSS: Thank you so much, Steve.
INSKEEP: Ben Dreyfuss writes for Mother Jones. Emily Dreyfuss writes for Wired. This is NPR News, chief. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.