THE ULTIMATE JAWS FAN
Greg Nicotero, Co-Founder of KNB EFX and a lifelong JAWS fan, decided to turn his passion for the movie into something more lasting. "I saw JAWS the second day it came out in the theaters," says Nicotero, "and I was captivated by the trailer. I was into special effects when I was younger, so I was fascinated with the mechanics of how they made the movie. Even standing in the lobby of the Gateway Theater in Pittsburgh, and there is the one lobby card of Hooper in the cage with the shark gliding by, and I remember staring at that and just thinking, 'How did they do that?' It was really one of the first times seeing something where I just felt I needed to know how the movie was made."
Pictured above: "Bruce" the mechanical shark in some behind-the-scenes photography from JAWS, part of Greg Nicotero's immense photo collection.
THE BIG IDEA
To realize his vision of a tribute to commemorate his favorite film, Nicotero contacted his friend and co-worker, sculptor, Nick Marra. "Nick and I have had a great working relationship," says Nicotero, "He’s provided some fantastic work for KNB in the past. I think his likeness sculptures are spot on. He’s a fellow JAWS fan, so I called him into my office one day… and I was like, 'Hey, I got an idea. I have a proposition for you.'" Using one of the film's lobby cards as inspiration, Nicotero decided on the perfect moment for their recreation. Quint, Hooper and Brody are on the back of the Orca and they have a run-in with the shark. In one shot, all three are posed, leaning over the transom, looking off to something unseen.
Pictured above: The lobby card from JAWS. Greg Nicotero's inspiration for his life-size, realistic tableau.
For Greg Nicotero, that was THE moment. He imagined the impact of seeing this moment recreated, imagining people able to walk up to the display and feel like they've stepped into the film. In Nicotero's words, "Because to me … I think the goal, the whole reason you do this, the whole reason the fans exist is because they want to find a way to transport themselves into the movie that they love. That was my goal."
"First and foremost," said Nicotero, "we never set a date as to when it has to be done. If it takes three weeks to do a sculpture, great, if it takes three days to do the sculpture, also great. Because time is always your enemy. Because if you rush through it, it doesn’t look right and then all of a sudden you’re like, 'God, I put so much energy and time and money into it, and then it doesn’t look right.' That’s a huge pet peeve of mine. We started with sculptures that Nick did and they weren't based on life casts. They were literally from scratch, per scene."
Pictured above: Roy Scheider as Chief Martin C. Brody, for KNB's life-size JAWSFEST display.
According to Nick Marra, the sculpture of Brody took about two weeks. "He was done very quickly, very distinctive face, very distinctive features. There’s not really anyone who looks like Roy Scheider at all," said Marra. "Quint took maybe three weeks, maybe two and a half weeks, something like that."
Capturing Richard Dreyfus as Hooper took longer, about a month all in. Nicotero describes his likeness as "challenging."
Pictured above: Reference photo of Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper in a still from JAWS.
Marra says, "Most of his face is covered by a beard and mustache, you can’t see a lot of subtleties of his face. That’s why, I immediately went to AMERICAN GRAFFITI for reference to study. [Richard Dreyfuss] has a very tricky face. I wanted the challenge right up front."
Nicotero adds, "If you really think about that, starting from scratch and then getting the likenesses, it’s certainly challenging and I think, again, not having a deadline and allowing Nick to take the time to make them look right, was critical. Recreating creatures that people have designed, like Predator, as an example, that’s much more technical because you’re matching something that exists already and you’re refining the technique as you go. It always ends up being the hair and the eyes that make it look real."
Pictured above: A recreation of Robert Shaw as Quint for the JAWSFEST display made by artists at KNB.
Nicotero gives kudos to his staff at KNB who helped make every aspect of the figures magnificent. The KNB crew included sculptor, Marra, lead fabricator, Beth Hathaway, painter Richard Mayberry, mold supervisor, Jim Leonard, and hair work by Denise Baer. Nictoero says, "In this instance, one of the things that was super important to me was that the hair have a very specific, wind-blown look. All of the styling of the hair, I wanted it to look like they were outside. The boat is on the ocean, so their hair is a little messed up and it’s messed up for a reason. It’s messed up because you want to simulate the wind and the salt water that makes your hair knotted. Hooper’s hair looks very wind-blown. Denise did a stunning job, an unbelievable job."
Fabricator Beth Hathawy echoes the feeling of the whole crew when she says, "Because this was a passion project for Greg, it’s different than being hired by someone from the outside to do it. I knew it’s going to be … sitting here everyday, he’s going to come and look at it and if it’s wrong, he’s going to be unhappy about it."
Pictured above: The display at JAWSFEST: labor of love, realized!
"What you're seeing is a testament to our passion and our dream," says Nicotero, "and having my imagination just expanded exponentially. As I was a youngster watching these kinds of fantasy movies and seeing the make up and seeing the creatures and the characters and following that passion, that’s defined who I am. I changed my life path from being a doctor, I was pre-med, and I followed my passion. I loved making monsters and I just wanted to be a part of it somehow. I had no idea because I grew up in Pittsburgh and I’m walking down the street and there’s George Romero and Tom Savini...and I’m like, 'I think that’s the way I should go,' and I went and that was literally 29 years ago."
Greg Nicotero is a special effects creator, actor, director and the co-founder and owner of KNB Efx Group. He recently received an Emmy nomination (his 8th with 4 wins) for his work on THE WALKING DEAD.
By Maggie Sayer
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