- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
It would become one of the most memorable themes in film history and earn John Williams his second Oscar — but filmmaker Steven Spielberg thought the composer was joking around when he first heard the theme to Jaws.
The living-legend film composer, who created such score staples as Star Wars, Superman and Indiana Jones, turned 90 on Tuesday.
In a previous Jaws making-of DVD featurette, Spielberg explained that he had some notion of what the music might be for his 1975 killer shark film, but was baffled — at least for a minute — when Williams began to play those ominous two chords.
“I expected to hear something kind of weird and melodic, something tonal, but eerie; something of another world, almost like outer space under the water,” Spielberg says in the featurette. “And what he played me instead, with two fingers on the lower keys, was ‘dun dun, dun dun, dun dun.’ And at first, I began to laugh. He had a great sense of humor, and I thought he was putting me on.”
Williams assured him he was quite serious and played the theme a few times for the director. And that’s when it clicked. “It suddenly seemed right. And John found the signature for the entire movie,” Spielberg said.
On his Jaws score, Williams said in the same DVD featurette, “You could alter the speed of this ostinato; any kind of alteration, very slow and very fast, very soft and very loud. There were opportunities to advertise the shark with music. There are also opportunities when we don’t have the music and, the audience has a sense of the absence. They sense the absence because they don’t hear the ‘dun dun’ because you’ve conditioned them to do that.” And, as Williams points out, that led to some of the biggest scares in the film, such as when the shark terrorizes The Orca in the third act. The absence of the music cue leaves viewers shocked when the shark pops up out of the water.”
Spielberg would go on to say, “I think the score was responsible for half of the success of that movie.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Arnold Schwarzenegger on Bruce Willis’ Retirement: Action Stars “Never Really Retire … They Reload”
The Little Mermaid
China Box Office: ‘Fast X’ Roars Past $100M, ‘The Little Mermaid’ Struggles to Stay Afloat
The Little Mermaid
‘The Wiz’ Star Stephanie Mills Relates Her Own Experience to Racist Backlash Toward ‘Little Mermaid”s Halle Bailey
Robert Downey Jr.
Jon Favreau Says Robert Downey Jr. Was in Talks for Another Marvel Character Before Becoming Iron Man