Bathtubs, fake blood and savaged Barbies: how a global army of ‘finatics’ recreated Jaws

Lego men and Barbie dolls are savaged by toy sharks. Blue bedsheets double for sea and sky. At one point, when someone mentions the victim’s “head and shoulders”, a bottle of the shampoo appears. Fans of the movie Jaws have made creative use of their quarantine – not to mention their showers and swimming pools – to recreate the classic thriller, scene by scene.

Arranged by members of the global fan site the Daily Jaws, the feature – Jaws WeMake – is 75 minutes long, condensing the narrative of the original somewhat but enlarging the cast to more than 100 self-described “finatics” from the UK, US, Spain and India. “People literally took to the water for this,” says Daily Jaws founder Ross Williams, from Surbiton, south-west London.

The site put out the call for clips in April to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film, widely considered the first ever summer blockbuster. “We thought it might be a ‘greatest hits’ package, 30 minutes in length,” says Dean Newman, the site’s chief writer. “But we pretty much got 90% of the film.”

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Nearly 100 clips were submitted, combining live action, animation and stop-motion footage, as well as an assortment of sharks, varying from hand puppets to human-sized. A video even arrived from Martha’s Vineyard, the fictional “Amity Island” depicted in Spielberg’s film.

From there, says Newman, who edited the remake, “it was a matter of stitching it together, like a large Jaws patchwork quilt.”

Any gaps in the narrative were filled by requesting specific scenes from the Daily Jaws’ global community, though one was overrepresented: “Everybody wanted to do the Indianapolis speech,” says Williams.

The finished film features “in the region of 20 different Quints,” agrees Newman – including a few women. “Everyone wants to have a go at being Robert Shaw.”

The actor’s son, Ian Shaw – who was due to appear in his play about the making of Jaws called The Shark is Broken, now on pause because of the pandemic – introduces the remake; just one of the “Jaws world” celebrities to appear, says Newman.

The comedian Tim Vine – who chose the film as his Celebrity Mastermind subject – contributed several scenes, including taking on his wife, wearing a shark costume, in the film’s high-octane climax. “He even played the theme on a Casio keyboard,” says Williams. “That’s how much he committed.”

Q&A What is the truth about sharks series?

Mysterious and often misunderstood, the shark family is magically diverse – from glowing sharks to walking sharks to the whale shark, the ocean’s largest fish. But these magnificent animals very rarely threaten humans: so why did dolphins get Flipper while sharks got Jaws?

Sharks are increasingly considered, like whales, to play a crucial role in ocean ecosystems, keeping entire food chains in balance – and have done so for millions of years. But these apex predators are now in grave danger. The threats they face include finning ( in which their fins are sliced off before they are thrown back into the water), warming seas, and being killed as bycatch in huge fishing operations.

To celebrate our emerging understanding of sharks’ true nature and investigate the many underreported ways in which humans rely on them, the Guardian is devoting a week to rethinking humanity’s relationship with the shark – because if they are to survive, these predators cannot be prey for much longer.

Photograph: Good Wives and Warriors

The “WeMake” has had tens of thousands of views since it was posted on YouTube in late June, and made the front page of the Martha’s Vineyard Times – “kind of like coming full circle,” says Newman.

The Daily Jaws had 100,000 visitors last year, says Williams, and is on track to double that in 2020 – “which is nuts for a website about a movie that is half a century old”. The fandom is growing, too. Newman says Jaws fans “start young”, then their love of the film matures with them.

Williams traces his life through the characters. As a child, he says, he identified with Hooper’s (Richard Dreyfuss) enthusiasm for sharks; now 40, he relates more to steady, responsible Chief Brody (Roy Scheider).

He says Jaws has equally stoked fear and fascination about sharks, even inspiring people to pursue careers in conservation. “There are so many different things that people take away from the film, and that’s why it’s been able to create this community.”

Share your thoughts and experiences using the hashtag #sharklife on Twitter and Instagram, and follow our shark series at Guardian Seascape: the state of our oceans


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