News Column

Memories of working as an extra on the less-than-classic 'Jaws 3-D'

June 9, 2013

YellowBrix

June 09--Not to question the public's taste in movies, but I need to question the public's taste in movies.

I see you jamming theaters to see this summer's blockbusters -- namely, sequels to ''Fast and Furious,'' ''Star Trek,'' ''Iron Man'' and ''The Hangover.'' Millions and millions spent on what? Entertaining, thrilling, funny movies?

Why?

Why, when in the comfort of your own home entertainment system you can stumble almost any week on the greatest movie sequel of our lifetime. While others might quibble and claim ''The Godfather Part 11'' holds that honor, this is no time for quibbling.

This is time for action.

This is time for ''Jaws 3-D.''

This second sequel to Steven Spielberg's 1975 "Jaws" -- considered the first summer "blockbuster" -- is a cinematic tour de force that when released in 1983, forever neutered the phrase "tour de force."

If you don't know, ''Jaws 3-D'' is the story of a killer mommy shark terrorizing water skiers and the heavily tanned in an Orlando, Fla., theme park. In the end, the shark dies from a grenade in its throat. Other stuff happens involving blood and bobbing heads and water skier pyramids. But the key plot point is the grenade-in-the-shark-mouth trick.

The movie was directed by none other than the production designer for the first ''Jaws'' -- and by none other, I mean I don't know his name. The movie starred a young Dennis Quaid as Mike Brody, son of Sheriff Brody. Baltimore's Bess Armstrong and Louis Gossett Jr. rounded out the cast, as did talented, selfless extras who were hired during filming at Orlando's SeaWorld 30 years ago.

Reviewers, while sparing the extras, savaged the movie.

"Surprisingly tepid."

"Enough is too much -- even in 3-D. The franchise stinks."

"I have no respect for this film."

Came the reviews on the online movie site, Rotten Tomatoes, which added its own 12-percent "rotten" rating.

What went wrong? Some say the producers should have stuck with the original idea of hiring ''National Lampoon's'' John Hughes (he of "The Breakfast Club" and "Uncle Buck) to write a spoof called ''Jaws 3, People 0.'' But that idea was canned. Cooler, less-fun heads prevailed, and the ''Jaws'' brand was maintained and by that I mean maimed.

Would it have been a better comedy? Of course.

But let's focus on what went so very right with ''Jaws 3-D.''

Me.

For reasons best left unexplored, I found myself in Orlando in 1983 and standing in line to work a week as a movie extra. I got $50 a day and free lunch. I got to leer at Bess Armstrong, who did not return my leers. I got to chat up Dennis Quaid in between "set-ups," which is movie talk for waiting around for hours while stuff is set up then set up all over again and life's precious moments tick away.

During one set-up, Dennis and I discussed the craft of acting:

"How you doing?" I said.

"Good."

We both watched a man load a golf cart with popcorn for our scene.

"So, do you like acting?" I said.

And Dennis said something I still think about every day.

"It beats tarring roofs."

Then the camera rolled. All acting is reacting, as any extra knows. And my reaction to shark-spooked Mike Brody racing toward me in his popcorn-packed golf cart -- mere seconds of screen time -- is nothing short of somnambulant. In fact, I might have been sleep walking.

It's eerie to see yourself preserved on film from 30 years ago. I was reed thin. Had the Polo tucked in, for some reason. And my hair color was that of any Florida boy looking for summer work and without a clue what his own sequel would be.

I just hoped it would beat tarring roofs.

___

(c)2013 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)

Visit The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) at www.hometownannapolis.com

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