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A play about the making of ‘Jaws’ swims toward Broadway

This image released by Polk & Co. shows promotional art for “The Shark is Broken,” a stage play about the making of the blockbuster movie “Jaws.” (Polk & Co. via AP)
This image released by Polk & Co. shows promotional art for “The Shark is Broken,” a stage play about the making of the blockbuster movie “Jaws.” (Polk & Co. via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — A stage play about the making of the blockbuster movie “Jaws” will soon take a huge bite out of Broadway.

“The Shark is Broken” — co-written and starring the son of one of the film’s stars, the late Robert Shaw — will land on The Great White Way this summer, fitting for a play about a Great White Shark.

“It is a comedy mostly. We dip into the serious elements, but our intention is to entertain,” said Ian Shaw, who will play his father and whose theater credits include “War Horse” and “Common” at the National Theatre and “Much Ado About Nothing” in the West End.

The play is a behind-the-scenes look at the three main actors in the Steven Spielberg movie — Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Roy Scheider as the police chief and Richard Dreyfuss as an oceanographer. The three actors had a tense time, with many frustrating delays due to the mechanical shark malfunctioning.

“It was a grueling, difficult shoot,” said Shaw. “And there was a clash of personalities, particularly between my father and Richard Dreyfuss. But it’s complicated because they were friends as well at times.”

Shaw said the play — which has played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and London — has been edited and re-edited ahead of its Broadway bow, which will also be his Broadway debut. He has his family’s blessing in exploring a messy time for the three actors.

“In the play, they’re all facing up to their demons and they don’t always do it brilliantly,” he said. “To some extent, I was facing up to the demon of my relationship with my father and, for me, that’s been a good process.”

“Jaws” is credited for creating Hollywood’s blockbuster culture when it hit cinemas in June 1975 and became the highest-grossing film of all time until “Star Wars” came out two years later. It’s also gave us the classic line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” and frightened a lot of people from going swimming.

“One of the things I love about that film is the way you don’t know where it’s going to go next,” said Shaw. “It lurches from comedy to horror in a heartbeat. And we tried to do that with the play.”

“The Shark is Broken” — co-written by Shaw and Joseph Nixon, based on interviews and Shaw family stories — was nominated for best comedy at the 2022 Olivier Awards. It begins performances in New York on July 25 at the John Golden Theatre under Guy Masterson’s direction.

It comes to America on the heels of a stage musical also about the making of “Jaws.” “Bruce,” based on “Jaws” screenwriter Carl Gottlieb’s 1975 memoir “The Jaws Log,” made its premiere at Seattle Rep in 2022.

That musical — named after the nickname for the mechanical shark — centers on a young Spielberg facing poor weather, dangerous water, hostile locals, an exploding budget, endless delays and a highly dysfunctional Bruce to make “Jaws.”


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