“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” It’s one of the most iconic lines in movie history said by Chief Brody ( Roy Scheider) when he sees the shark in Jaws for the first time and realises how out of his depth he and the crew of The Orca really are.
What you may not know, though, is that Scheider improvised the line, but he didn’t pull the line out of thin air. According to Carl Gottlieb, who wrote the screenplay with Steven Spielberg, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” was said quite a lot around the set of Jaws and referred to the thriller movie’s troubled production and their producer’s refusal to literally buy them a bigger boat.
“[Richard] Zanuck and [David] Brown were very stingy producers, so everyone kept telling them, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” Gottlieb told The Hollywood Reporter. “It became a catchphrase for any time anything went wrong — if lunch was late or the swells were rocking the camera, someone would say, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat.'”
Eventually, Scheider caught on to the line and started dropping it into scenes. While most of his ad-libs were exorcised during the edit, the one when he first sees the shark looming out of the water behind The Orca made the cut.
Jaws was a notoriously difficult film to shoot. Obviously, setting a film at sea caused a number of logistical issues for the cast and crew to overcome, but one of the biggest problems was the animatronic shark Spielberg had built.
The thing wasn’t waterproof and had a tendency to go haywire when submerged in seawater. That’s why there’s so little of the shark in the final film. The damned thing wouldn’t behave. In fact, the prop shark was so unruly that it once bit down on a visiting Martin Scorsese’s head, trapping him in its mouth.
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