Resurrecting Quint: Robert Shaw’s son on bringing the Jaws legend back to life

We chat to Ian Shaw, son of Jaws royalty, Robert Shaw, about stepping into the boots of his old man’s most famous role, Quint.

In actual fact, he’s playing his dad, playing Quint, for a new play about what went off behind the scenes during the making of Jaws, The Shark Is Broken.

Ian talks to us about his relationship with his dad, the lasting legacy of Jaws and his play, which he both stars in and has co-written.

And, discover how you can also be a part of Jaws history by helping to crowdfund The Shark Is Broken.

FATHER & SON

Did you ever get to visit your dad on any film sets?

Yes, many times.  They are quite boring places.  Enormous cables everywhere, but it feels like nothing is is going on.  And then all of a sudden something happens. I went to Shepperton Studios while they were filming Force Ten From Navarone, and out of the blue there was a large explosion and dust settling everywhere.  They were filming the blowing up of a dam. Then it was back to glacial tedium.

You are around the same age when your dad played Quint, do you think preparing for it brought you closer to him as both a son and actor?  

I am in fact slightly older.  Preparing for it gave me a greater understanding of who he was, and although I thought I had completed grieving many years ago, it was clear to me writing the play was a very positive afterword in that process.


Quint’s death in the film is traumatic enough as it is, it must have had added impact with it being your dad?

No, strangely not.  I was used to the idea of him performing.  However I couldn’t always seperate fact and fiction.  I remember waking up in a house in Los Angeles in the 70s, terrified that my bed was floating in shark-infested water, and that I needed my Dad to comfort me.  There was no issue with the idea that Quint, who I’d seen disappear into the jaws of a great white, would be cuddling me. But the real fear of sharks and water was augmented by the power of the movie.

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Have you a favourite moment of your dad’s within the film?

That’s a tough question.  I think the Indianapolis speech has passed into cinema history, and the fact that he rewrote and honed it makes me proud.  But there are so many lovely touches, it’s hard to say. I love the Spanish ladies exchange with Hooper.

What other roles or films of your dad’s do you have a great fondness for?

I love his work with Harold Pinter, my favourite playwright.  The Caretaker (1963) and The Birthday Party (1968) are wonderful.  I really admire his performance in The Hireling (1973) too.  His portrayal of Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons (1966) is quite superb.  

  

Both you and your dad have been in Spielberg films, you were in War Horse. Did you get to meet Spielberg and mention your dad?

I was in fact in War Horse in London’s West End, not the movie.  I met Steven at the Golden Globes once.  It was like meeting a King; he had so many people either wanting to talk to him, or protect him. I had like a 45 second window. He said, "If I ever want to do a prequel, can I use you?" But you know, he was just being charming, and it would only detract from a masterpiece.  

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JAWS

A lot has been written about the friction between your dad and Dreyfuss, what’s your take on it?

It’s one of the themes of the play  - I find it fascinating and don’t know how much of it was for the film and how much was real.  In 1994 I auditioned for Dreyfuss - he was directing Hamlet at the Birmingham Old Rep. This was the play that he’d seen my father in, and thought his peformance of Claudius was the best he’d ever seen.  He didn’t know who I was, and when I mentioned my father, he looked like Hamlet when he sees the ghost. I hadn’t known there was an issue between them, but I knew then that he was still affected by it deeply.  I felt a little sad at the time - I admire Dreyfuss a lot and the thought of them not getting on was troubling.

If you visited the Jaws set, did you ever get to meet Dreyfuss or Scheider?

I did visit the set, but I don’t remember meeting them at the time.

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Did your dad get to keep any souvenirs from the film?

Not that I’m aware of.

 

Were you too young to see Jaws upon release? If so can you remember how old you were when you first saw it?

I saw it when I was very young - not sure what age, but before my Dad died, aged eight or under!  Too young really! My kids will have to wait longer.

 

How many times do you think you have seen Jaws?

Probably twenty times.  A lot less than some of the fans!

 

Have you seen the recently announced Funko Pop version of Quint, what do you think of it?

Not my kind of thing, but I can appreciate some fans love that stuff.

Ian taking a sneaky peek at Bruce

Ian taking a sneaky peek at Bruce

 

Quint is always a firm favourite in The Daily Jaws polls, what do you think his appeal is?

He’s a classic character, scary, funny, unreasonable, macho, crazy, obsessed.  Robert Shaw’s performance makes this larger than life seadog convincing - but it’s the Indianapolis speech that makes the audience understand his psyche.

If the right script came along would you play Quint in a Jaws prequel?

It depends.  I think it would almost certainly  be a mistake!

THE PLAY

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Why have you decided to now do this play based on your dad’s diaries and conversations from when he filmed Jaws?

In 2005 I played Colonel Tibbets in a drama-documentary called Hiroshima.  He was the commanding officer of the Enola Gay, so he was the one who received the atomic bomb from the USS Indianapolis.  I thought of my father delivering the Bomb to me, suffering the horrors of being torpedoed and under shark attack, and thought that was a surreal connection.  Years later I lay in bed one night thinking about JAWS, and also the wonderful JAWS LOG by Carl Gottlieb, and I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of the three actors waiting on the Orca while the shark was broken.  So I sketched out some ideas - there were some subjects that interested me, particularly alcoholism, art vs commercialism, ego vs teamwork, boredom, neurosis. Then I shelved the idea as being too personal, and potentially tasteless.  It came back when I discussed it with a writer friend, Jospeh Nixon, who thought it was a story that should be told. So we wrote it together in the end. I still had my doubts, but when my family read it and approved of it, I felt it should be staged.  I am about my father’s age when he played Quint, so this has to be the time to do it!

  What can we expect from the play?  

It’s a behind the scenes exploration of the relationships between the three stars - Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider.  It’s funny, interesting and moving - or so people who have read it have told me.

If it is a success at the Edinburgh Festival what are your next plans for it?

If it’s a success we would like to tour it, or take it to London.  It would be nice to put in on in the States.

Would you ever take it on tour to Martha’s Vineyard?

That would be quite something, wouldn’t it?

We have to ask, do you do the USS Indianapolis speech at any point in the play?

Yes, the way the speech evolves and the difficulty in getting it perfect is part of the play.

 

Have you done it in the mirror dressed as Quint?

Not so much the mirror, but I have filmed myself in order to see if it works.  

 

Talking of the outfit, how long did it take you to pull it together and is any of it your dad’s from the film?

The internet is a wonderful thing, I guess it took a month to source the costume - none of the costume is my Dad’s.

 

The resemblance to your dad is uncanny, even out of costume, do you get recognised much?

Strangers don’t recognise me.  But when I talk to people they point out the resemblance.  I can see the resemblance myself of course.

 

What’s been the reaction from family?

Positive so far!

How do the stage Brody and Hooper match up? Can you tell us a little about the actors portraying them?

Duncan Henderson is playing Roy Scheider - it’s not an exact match, but close enough, and he’s a gifted actor.  We are casting Dreyfuss at the moment.

 

Was it ever tempting to approach Roy Scheider’s son and Richard Dreyfuss’ son - both actors - to be a part of it?   

No.  I hope they like it if they see it though, I have enormous respect for their fathers.

The most famous behind the scenes insight into the making of Jaws is The Jaws Log, have you read it?

Yes, it was one of the inspiring elements.

Have you reached out to its author (and Jaws co-screenwriter) Carl Gottlieb or Spielberg himself?

No.  At the moment I want the piece to find its feet without too much outside influence.

Behind the scenes plays like Frost Vs Nixon have ended up transferring to the big screen (or Netflix or Amazon) is that the hope for The Shark Is Broken?

I don’t know how I would feel about that.  It seems right for the theatre. I feel like I’m in control of the tone.

How are you asking Jaws fans to help?

Well, first of all I hope that they will come to see the play.  We are also crowdfunding the project if people feel they can help in that way - https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-shark-is-broken, or go to the facebook page for more info - https://www.facebook.com/edinburghfestivaltheatre

If we can raise enough funds the play will be on at the Assembly Festival - https://www.assemblyfestival.com

You can follow Ian Shaw on Twitter

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