30 years later, Gulf Breeze still recalls Jaws 2 excitement

This is Part 1 of 4 of a recent series of articles on the making of JAWS 2 by Betty Archer Allen that appeared in The Gulf Breeze News.  Links to parts 2-4 follow the article.  Thanks to Sean for the heads up about the articles.

The making of ‘Jaws2,’ the movie sequel to the mega-hit ‘Jaws,’ might have been old-hat movie making to the professionals involved, but for the residents of Gulf Breeze and Navarre, it was a real happening.

The movie came out in theaters in the summer of 1978. The excitement for the Gulf Breeze area, however, was experienced during fall and winter of 1977-1978 when Hollywood filmmakers and movie stars descended on the Emerald Coast to film the suspense thriller.

So many local lives were affected. Area residents, including students from Gulf Breeze High School, were hired as extras. It was exciting as locals anticipated being seen worldwide on the silver screen.

Universal Studios scouted the Emerald Coast to determine which area was best suited for filming. It found Navarre Beach to be ideal, and the Holiday Inn “Holidome” was more than suitable for film headquarters because of its relatively remote location.

Darryl Lapointe, now President of the Highpoint Hotel Corporation, was general manager of the Holiday Inn at that time. Universal rented 100 of the hotel’s 200 rooms. The ground floor was converted to offices, and some of the Gulf-front suites were remodeled for stars David Brown and Roy Scheider.

“The film cast and crew came expecting to complete the project in a few months and stayed a year,” Lapointe said. “Their room bill was $1 million.”

The Gulf Breeze community became involved when the movie company advertised locally, seeking anyone who was interested in taking part in the movie to complete an application that was provided in some of the local motels.

Photos of the young actors were published in the local newspaper in hopes of finding look-alikes who could act as stand-ins or doubles.

Students — especially members of the band from Gulf Breeze High School — and people who could maintain and sail boats, families who could spend ample time on the beach and local boating businesses participated in the production.

Sequel to ’75 film

‘Jaws 2′ was the first sequel to the ‘Jaws’ thriller of 1975 directed by Steven Spielberg. The primary director of ‘Jaws2′ was Jeannot Szwarc. The film was produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown.

Parts of the movie, particularly the community scenes, were filmed at Martha’s Vineyard — renamed Amity Island — in Massachusetts. Many of the water scenes, however, were shot locally. Navarre Beach was chosen for the majority of filming because of the mild fall and winter climate and the ideal depth of the water.

Other parts of the movie were filmed from Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island to as far east as Choctawhatchee Bay near Fort Walton Beach. Hog’s Breath Saloon on Okaloosa Island, which has since relocated to Destin, served as the teen hangout for filming.

Many of the characters of ‘Jaws’ returned for ‘Jaws2.’ Three major actors resumed their roles: Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody; Lorraine Gary as Ellen, Brody’s wife; and Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn. Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin played Brody’s sons, Mike and Sean.

The plot of ‘Jaws2′ was similar to its predecessor. Scheider’s character, Martin Brody, felt that several recent deaths and disappearances in the vicinity of Amity Island indicated that another great white shark was plaguing surrounding waters again. But as before, he had difficulty convincing the town’s mayor and aldermen, who were more interested in promoting the growth of the area and didn’t want anything to interfere with tourists’ and summer dwellers’ enjoyment of beach and water activities.

The film’s tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” became one of the most famous sayings in movie history.

Universal was able to reuse the molds of the behemoth shark from the first film, but much of the mechanism was ruined from having been left outside. For ‘Jaws2,’ the studio built three mechanical sharks: the platform shark, a fin, and a full shark. The fin and the full shark were pulled by boats.

The company built props to enhance the scenes and make the Navarre area look more like the East Coast. They built a full-size lighthouse prop that looked genuine despite having only one side; a wood-framed skeleton of 2-by-4s supported the building. They also built an island on a floating barge called Cable Junction. It was constructed in such a way that the huge mechanism of the platform shark could go underneath it. This island can be best seen in the final scenes of the movie.

Like the first film, the production was marked by problems. Scheider often argued with Szwarc, which made the atmosphere tense and uncertain. Scheider was not happy about reprising his role as Brody and making the sequel. He disagreed with Szwarc’s directing and was quite open in his differences of opinion.

Locals remember Scheider as being something of a fitness fanatic, working out during breaks.
Szwarc responded that he was trying to make the film to the “best possible” standard, and neither Scheider’s or Szwarc’s feelings were important; only the film mattered.

There were many delays in filming because of breakdowns of the mechanical shark, minor boating accidents and Mother Nature. Shortly after construction of the lighthouse was completed, it was hit by lightning and had to be rebuilt.

Wind and weather conditions constantly changed, resulting in the sailboats getting blown in different directions. There were many days when there could be no shooting at all. But when the cast and crew worked, they put in long, hard hours.

Dollars flow locally

The making of this film was a boost to the local economy because local boaters, extras and stand-ins or doubles were hired. Universal brought in actors, directors, producers and their wives, camera and crew people who needed housing, food and clothing for the movie. Services were needed for laundry, dry-cleaning and recreation.

In 1977, Ed Gray III of Gulf Breeze was manager of what’s now known as SunTrust Bank on Hoffman Drive. He recalled that the bank received a phone call from Holidome management alerting the bank that someone from the movie company would be coming to see them.

An elderly gentleman visited the bank and identified himself as the on-site auditor for Universal Studios. He said he needed a local bank where he could get a $40,000 check cashed each week. The cash needed to be in specified denominations and placed in a paper bag to be taken to the film location and disbursed to each member of the film crew and cast as the per-diem money to purchase meals or other necessities.

This routine went on for many weeks.

“Today and certainly more so in those days, $40,000 was a big sum to be carrying in cash,” Gray said. “The auditor normally would have at least two big guys accompanying him, and he was inconspicuous during his visit to the bank.”

Gray said the two boys playing the roles of the police chief’s sons came to open accounts at the bank. They wanted local accounts for routine spending.

“During the course of the account opening, they began to debate which of them had more acting experience and which one had appeared in more commercials as this was the first movie appearance for each of them,” Gray chuckled.

Continue reading with the links below

:

JAWS 2 Part II

JAWS 2 Part III

JAWS 2 Part IV

  1. Wow, either Scheider truly hated Szwarc or he turned into a complete douchebag. Which, from all accounts of those in he new know I’d say the former. I’ve heard too much about him being a nice guy.

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