Amity Island Beach

Movie Jaws Steven Spielberg (1975)
First film to break the 100 million mark of box-office receipts, Jaws gave birth to the tentpole film genre. The feature film also helped put the spotlight on Martha's Vineyard, a charming little island in Massachusetts.
Martha's Vineyard Beach
Martha's Vineyard Beach - Credit: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism on flickr

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Martin Brody (Roy Scheider)

Jaws, the novel by Peter Benchley, was published in 1974. Inspired by a newspaper article recounting the misadventure of a man who caught a shark weighing more than two tons off Long Island, the book was a great success but attracted a lot of criticism. Jacques-Yves Cousteau in particular, condemned the unrealistic aspect of the story. Very quickly, even before sales started to skyrocket, producer David Brown bought the rights. Several screenwriters work on different versions, including John Milius, to whom the film owes the monologue of Quint when the latter relates the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. At the same time, the production chose to locate the filming on the island of Martha’s Vineyard because of the low tides, the shoals close to the beaches and the beauty of the landscape. Steven Spielberg, whom the producers chose to trust after financing his Sugarland Express, surrounded himself with a high-flying team including the set designer Joe Alves. Years later, the latter will direct Jaws 3. Composer John Williams is also part of the adventure.

It is in Edgartown, a town of less than 4,000 souls, that Steven Spielberg takes up residence. In order to save money, but also because there is little need for it, places such as the beach, are not modified. The shark, or rather sharks, pose their own set of problems. Commissioned to find an animatronics specialist, Joe Alves contacted Bob Mattey, a retired craftsman known for designing the giant squid in the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Enthusiastically, he convinced the set designer and the director that it was possible to bring a fake shark to life in a very realistic way. Various specialists are hired to build the animal. A shark is built from scratch. The team also manufactures a single fin, used for the water chase sequences. Two other creatures are born in the process.

Unfortunately, the waters of Martha’s Vineyard are not kind to shark valves and cylinders. The shark, which Steven Spielberg named Bruce after his lawyer, works intermittently. Despite the fact that the costs turned out to be higher than expected, the director managed to complete his feature film. Fun fact: the scene in which Richard Dreyfuss discovers the old fisherman’s head was shot in the pool of Verna Field, the film’s editor, in Los Angeles. When Jaws was released in theaters, Martha’s Vineyard, until then lacking in tourists, saw its attendance soar. An interest that time has not been enough to alter…

Jaws, the first true Hollywood blockbuster, changed everything in the film industry. Produced for 9 million dollars, it won 210 worldwide. It was followed by three sequels and encouraged a number of more or less inspired plagiarisms.


Robert A. Mattey and Joe Alves designed three animatronic sharks for
of the shooting. None of them worked as expected.

Scene on the beach of Amity Island in Jaws
Amity Island beach scene in Jaws – Credit: Universal Pictures
Scene on the beach of Amity Island in Jaws
Amity Island beach scene in Jaws – Credit: Universal Pictures
Scene on the beach of Amity Island in Jaws
Amity Island beach scene in Jaws – Credit: Universal Pictures

Beach Road

Martha’s Vineyard is a popular island for stars and U.S. presidents. It was also home to the first American deaf community, having developed its own sign language.

Located on a long arm of land on the east side of the island, the beach exploited by Steven Spielberg in Jaws has hardly changed since the late 1970s. People still come here to swim and occasionally to get a few scares. Even if in reality, the places are much safer than in the movie. Known in the XIXe century for whaling, Martha’s Vineyard has also received a number of presidents during its history. Often visited by Ulysses S. Grant, the island was also favored by Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

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Cult! movies: 100 mythical places of cinema [French Edition]

Since the dawn of cinema, films have invaded the world and highlighted sometimes unexpected places. Every film location has its secrets. The latter are sometimes as exciting as the feature films themselves.

Did you know that the cemetery where the final duel of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was built from scratch and that no body lies there? Or that the bus ofInto The Wild has been moved to discourage fans from spending the night there? From the story of the construction of The Bridge on the River Kwai to the incredible encounter during the shooting of the last scene ofIndiana Jones and the Last Crusadeembark on an exciting world tour with the greatest stars of the seventh art. Shiver in the real haunted house ofAmityville and discover the terrifying anecdotes of the making ofApocalypse Now in the Philippines. Visit the building of Blade Runner before stopping at Hogwarts and finally landing in Jurassic Parkin the middle of the Hawaiian archipelago. What if we also took you behind the scenes of the making of the Hobbits’ village of Lord of the Rings ?

Produced by a team of pop-culture specialists and enhanced by numerous anecdotes, Cult! movies tells the secrets of the places that made the history of cinema.

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By Gilles Rolland

Monday, January 17, 2022

Passionné de cinéma, de rock and roll, de séries TV et de littérature. Rédacteur de presse et auteur des livres Le Heavy Metal au cinéma, Paroles de fans Guns N' Roses, Paroles de fans Rammstein et Welcome to my Jungle : 100 albums rock et autres anecdotes dépareillées. Adore également voyager à la recherche des lieux les plus emblématiques de la pop culture.

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