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Jaws 3’s Original Horror Concept Was Genius (& Why Spielberg Turned It Down)

Jaws 3 once had a great horror concept unrelated to the final version, but here’s why it changed and why Steven Spielberg rejected the sequel.

Here’s why Jaws 3’s original horror concept was a much better fit for the franchise – here’s why it was dropped and why Steven Spielberg passed on the sequel. The original Jaws was a cultural event upon release in 1975, where it became the original summer blockbuster. While sequels were relatively rare during this era – even for big hits – Univeral was smart enough to know a follow-up was guaranteed to be a success. Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss were both busy with Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, so they passed on 1978’s Jaws 2 – which almost dropped a shark for a squid.

The first two Jaws movies were produced by Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, who felt the only logical option for another outing would be a parody. To that end, they put a comedy titled Jaws 3, People 0 into development, which was about the madcap production of a third Jaws that took jabs at both the Hollywood machine and the series itself. Universal ultimately decided against this, feeling it would be a mistake to mock its own property, and after Zanuck and Brown exited the movie, it was decided to make a straightforward horror movie.


Related: Jaws: Rising – The Canceled STV Sequel Explained

Jaws 3D arrived in 1983 and, as the title implies, was initially released in 3D. Franchise star Roy Scheider refused to return as Chief Brody following the miserable production of the second movie, while Dennis Quaid was cast to play Brody’s son Mike, who works in SeaWorld Orlando when a 35-foot great white shark arrives to terrorize the tourists. On paper, a Jaws movie set in a marine park should be rife with potential for great setpieces, but Jaws 3D is instead a boring adventure with listless characters. While the sequel was still a hit, it received terrible reviews. Jaws 3 should have gone with an earlier concept where a great white shark swam up a saltwater river, only to get trapped in a manmade lake and soon set about snacking on the locals.

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While not as colorful a setting as SeaWorld, this take on Jaws 3 – which could make for a good reboot concept – could have retained the horror roots of the series while retaining the spirit of the first two entries. It appears the manmade lake concept originated with a writer named Guerdon Trueblood – who based it on the New Jersey attacks that inspired the original Jaws novel – with I Am Legend author Richard Matheson developing it further. Sadly, the studio preferred the SeaWorld concept and forced Matheson to include elements like the Brody children and they also pitched having the shark be the same one from Jaws 2 – despite its clear demise from biting an electrical cable in that entry’s finale.

Matheson eventually exited from Jaws 3 and was vocally displeased with the heavily rewritten end product. While it’s known that Steven Spielberg rejected Jaws 2, it’s less well-known he was offered Jaws 3D – which features the infamous 3D glass smash – also. He confirmed as much in a 2011 AICN interview, stating he turned down both the second movie and “… Jaws 3. I was done.” He elaborated that he never wanted to go back on the sea following the production of the first movie, and that “I would have absolutely jumped at the chance to own the sequel because I knew that when I was walking away from the sequel I was walking away from a huge piece of my life that I had helped to create, but it wasn’t a hard decision to walk away from it. I just could not imagine going back out to the ocean and sitting in a boat for 9 months.” It’s unclear which take on Jaws 3 he was offered, but it feels like the studio would have preferred he take on one of the horror-focused pitches.

Next: The Letter Steven Spielberg Sent To Jaws: The Revenge’s Director

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