Steven Spielberg regrets the impact of “Jaws” on the shark population

“I truly regret, and to this day, the decimation of the shark population because of the book and the film.”

The 1975 release of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” had a massive impact on popular culture, established the concept of the Hollywood summer blockbuster, and has remained a prime target for parody to this day. One of his more unfortunate legacies, however, is how his portrayal of the great white shark as a ferocious, man-eating animal has endured, leading to decades of increased hunting against the species. And it’s a legacy the director himself isn’t at all proud of.

“I truly regret, and to this day do, the decimation of the shark population as a result of the book and the film,” the ‘Fabelmans’ director said in a recent interview on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (via Entertainment Weekly). “I really, really regret that.”

On Desert Island Discs, host Lauren Laverne asks guests to choose eight recordings, a book and a luxury item that left them stranded on a desert island. When asked what would happen if sharks circled him on the desert island, Spielberg said, “That’s one of the things I still fear. Not getting eaten by a shark, but these sharks are kind of mad at me for the feeding frenzy of crazy sport fishermen that happened after 1975.”

Jaws is based on the book of the same name by author Peter Benchley, who loosely based the storyline on a 1916 incident in which a great white shark attacked swimmers along the Jersey shore, resulting in four fatalities. In real life, Great Whites can kill people, but it rarely happens, generally less than 10 times a year worldwide. Some research has shown that the portrayal of the species in film and film as essentially a horror movie monster has contributed to increased hunting and killing of the species.

“You didn’t have to have a fancy boat or gear,” George Burgess of the Florida Program for Shark Research told the BBC in 2015. “An average Joe could catch big fish, and there was no regrets because there was this mindset that they were human killers.”

Benchley also expressed regret at the real-world impact of “Jaws” and how it propagated false beliefs about sharks. The author, who died in 2006, spent the last few years of his life publishing non-fiction books about sharks and working to protect their populations.

Spielberg is currently competing for best director at the Oscars for his film The Fabelmans, starring Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Gabriel LaBelle. The film is currently in cinemas and available to rent on VOD platforms.

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Lindsay Lowe

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