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New book takes another bite at "Jaws" legend

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - In the summer of 1974, a young Martha's Vineyard resident made a pact with his pals -- no one takes a role in the film "Jaws" unless everyone gets cast.
/ Source: Reuters

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - In the summer of 1974, a young Martha's Vineyard resident made a pact with his pals -- no one takes a role in the film "Jaws" unless everyone gets cast.

That year, Jeffrey Voorhees played Alex Kintner, the young boy snapped from his raft and devoured by the famous great white shark. His friends all played extras.

Off camera, some island kids tried to carve their initials into the model mechanical sharks stowed in an area of Oak Bluffs harbor dubbed "Shark City."

Vineyard marine mechanic Lynn Murphy and his wife Susan were "Shark City" regulars, rigging the towing mechanisms and running special effects for the "Jaws" star, Bruce the Shark.

Over the years, much of the story behind the shooting of "Jaws," the 1975 summer blockbuster based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, has been well-documented.

But the anecdotes and photos from hundreds of Martha's Vineyard residents who worked behind the scenes during filming have been stashed away for decades in attics and memories across the island.

Now, a nearly 300-page book documents the impact of the film on the island and includes more than 1,000 photographs taken by local residents and interviews with islanders and key Hollywood players.

"Having grown up summers on the island and known many people involved in production, I knew there were countless stories and photos and pieces of information that had never seen the light of day," said the book's author Matt Taylor.

For over two years Taylor pieced together the filming schedules, interviewed local participants involved with the film and scoured the newspaper archives for the original casting call.

The book, "JAWS: Memories from Martha's Vineyard" portrays life on the set from every angle -- filmmaker, bystander, actor, local resident, casting director and crew member through candid interviews, sentimental recollections and film set artifacts. It also recounts the financial benefit the production brought to the island.

Martha's Vineyard, a 45-minute ferry ride from the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is known for its low-key, private style and remains a sought-after vacation destination.

The book explores director Steven Spielberg's desire for local authenticity and shows the impact life, style and speech of residents had on the film and its characters.

"Steven didn't want Robert Shaw speaking some Hollywood dialogue coach's idea of what Quint should sound like," Shari Rhodes, location casting director, said in the book.

Instead, Quint, the shark-hunter, derived much of his speech and mannerisms from locals.

The book has even garnered praise from the man behind the camera. In a foreword by Spielberg, the director acknowledged his singular focus on moviemaking that summer.

But Taylor's compilation, he wrote, is "an astonishing behind-the-scenes anthology of pictures, recollections, and anecdotes from the people who supported the making of 'Jaws' and who, in so many ways, were invisible to me until now, thirty-seven years later."

Choosing to film on Martha's Vineyard happened by chance, production designer Joe Alves said in the book. He details a location scouting adventure that took him to the Hamptons and Sag Harbor in New York, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, among other spots.

"I just thought, 'This is the place,'" Alves said in the book about visiting Edgartown. "There was such order. It was the perfect place for a shark to come in and destroy."

Jim Beller, a "Jaws" memorabilia collector with thousands of pieces in his collection who helped compile the pictures, said he was "blown away" by seeing photos for the book that he never knew existed.