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RUE MORGUE Hits The Blue Carpet For The Broadway Opening of The Behind-The-Scenes Of “JAWS” Play, “The Shark is Broken”

Wednesday, August 16, 2023 | Exclusives, Stage Fright


When it comes to horror movies that instilled a lasting phobia in moviegoers, a few come to mind. Psycho may have terrified people out of the shower, but Steven Spielberg’s Jaws really made us afraid to get wet. At the time of its release in 1975, Jaws was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Beheld as the first blockbuster, the movie shook the world and continues to terrify us away from the beach to this day.

Behind the scenes, the making of the film was practically a horror in its own right. The mechanical shark (nicknamed “Bruce” for the director’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer ) frequently malfunctioned. From having been tested in fresh water and reacting poorly to the briny sea to getting dented in transport, Bruce was a thorn in Spielberg’s side, and he and the rest of the production crew had to make some quick decisions to get through the shoot. This would ultimately lead to what made the film so terrifying. Showing the shark as little as possible amped up the suspense.

Between takes and while waiting for the shark to be repaired, the film’s three stars, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, were stuck on the Orca (the fishing boat used in the film) for four weeks, trying to finish making the movie. The tension of the situation manifested as a notable feud between Dreyfuss and Shaw, with Scheider stuck in the middle. These stressful circumstances are the core of the new play THE SHARK IS BROKEN, which just opened at New York’s John Golden Theatre.

Co-written by and starring Ian Shaw, the son of Jaws star Robert Shaw (who delivers an eerily precise portrayal of his late father), the play explores the behind-the-scenes experiences of these three actors and how they got through the notoriously grueling shoot. It’s a terrific piece of theatre that showcases the history of one of horror’s most beloved and impactful contributions.

The play had a celebrated run in London’s West End, was a hit in a recent Canadian production, and has now surfaced on Broadway. On the show’s opening night, RUE MORGUE was fortunate enough to attend the John Golden Theatre’s “blue carpet” and speak with the show’s cast and creative teams as well as some celebrity attendees. We wanted to hear their thoughts on Jaws and why continues to terrify viewers nearly 50 years after its release, what scares them, and find out how these actors handle stage fright.


THE SHARK IS BROKEN’s co-writer Ian Shaw portrays his late father Robert Shaw.

RUE MORGUE readers are going to be excited about this show. We have a lot of Jaws fans. You grew up with the film as a big part of your life as well as your father’s legacy as an artist, writer, and actor. When was the first time you saw Jaws?

Ian Shaw: I saw Jaws when I was 8, I think? 7 or 8?

What was your reaction?

IS: Well, I was scared. I didn’t want to go into the water, obviously, but I also had nightmares about it – sharks swimming around my bed. My dad had to come and save, well… cuddle me. I could understand he wasn’t Quint, but, yeah, just the concept of sharks scared me. Steven [Spielberg] did his job.

You give a very intimate and personal part of yourself night after night. Was there any fear about your approach to this project?

IS: Yeah, there was a lot of nerves, but it was mostly about the writing in a strange kind of a way, getting the tone right. And then, when I went on stage the very first time, I was very apprehensive about it being a car crash. And I suppose I feel gratitude towards the audience for allowing me to do it, in a way. It feels very generous that they’re more interested in what the story is than judging me for attempting something that was so crazy.

You’re attempting and accomplishing. This piece is beautiful; You give a beautiful performance. Jaws has been scaring people for almost 50 years, now. Why do you think that is and what scares you?

IS: Well, there are lots of things that scare me. I mean, the dark, you know? The unknown. And I think, in a way, why Jaws was so effective was that the shark was broken. You couldn’t see what it was, and so John Williams’ music was the scary thing. Just two notes and I’m scared! So yes, and I like a lot of the Spanish horror films, as well. I always really liked The Orphanage and Rec. They scare the pants off of me!

How do you manage stage fright?

IS: As an actor, stage fright is a lack of perspective, and it’s generally brought on when people are thinking about their lines rather than their feelings. So you’ve got to concentrate on your feelings because you know your words.


Alex Brightman as Richard Dreyfuss in THE SHARK IS BROKEN.

What do you think it is about Jaws that has continued to frighten people after five decades?

Alex Brightman: I think that what makes Jaws really interesting and still scary – I just watched it very recently with my wife, and… two jump scares! Two huge jump scares! And I was like, see? See, it does hold up! I think it’s because it’s pitched as a horror movie, but then presented as kind of a weird comedy, and then all of a sudden, it’s horror. So I think it really loosens the audience up to be scared. And I think the other thing, obviously, the benchmark of that movie, was to not show the monster and let it be way scarier in people’s heads because I think people’s imaginations are way scarier than anything we could ever see.

You play Richard Dreyfuss who has a lot of fears, and these fears come together in a pretty impactful and very impressive moment in a panic attack. As someone who has them, it’s uncomfortable watching that scene. How do you do that every night?

AB: Well, as someone who also has them in real life, it’s uncomfortable to manifest one, obviously, without it becoming too real. You know, honestly, it is that there are just moments in theatre – and I’m afraid to pull back the curtain too far on this for anybody who doesn’t wanna know this – where you really do have to just become a technician. So, yes, there is emotion in this show, and yes, I am using it, and yes, there are plenty of moments for, like, “I feel sad, I feel scared”… That moment [the panic attack], I think, put in the wrong hands or the wrong capabilities, could be very dangerous to my own mental health. So, in that moment, I have to become a technician. I mean, it’s just like, “This is where I scream, this is where I cry, that’s where I break down.” And, you know, flavor it with some real emotion. But to be honest, I think if I really went for it every single night in this way that a method actor would – which I am not – I don’t know if I would survive it.

How do you approach stage fright? Is it something that you get? And how do you handle it?

AB: Yeah, great question! I think that “stage fright,” as a term, is kind of bullshit, honestly. I think “fright” is just being misused – sorry, I know you’re a horror magazine! [Laughs]

It’s okay, I’m an actor, too! I’m soaking this up.

AB: Okay, great! I think it’s okay to be nervous – to be stage nervous. It’s okay to have pre-show jitters. “Fright,” to me, is a very specific word, I mean, that’s like, terror – pure, unadulterated terror – and if that’s how you feel, I don’t know if this is for you, honestly. I think that people use “stage fright” to be like, “Oh, I’m a little nervous to go on stage.” I think the best way to combat “nerves,” which is what I’m going to call it moving forward, is to use them. People get so afraid and want to push them down and say they’re not nervous, when in fact, everybody is nervous. Everyone in the audience is nervous; Everyone running the lights is nervous. So my way of combatting nerves is to tell people that I’m nervous. “Hey, I’m a little nervous.” And you would be shocked at how many people are like, “Oh my God, me too!” And it just loosens the whole room up. I just think it’s always better. You’re always gonna be nervous! It’s life! We riff for a living! This is what we do for a living, this is… I’m improvising right now!

Me too!

[Laughs] I’m terrified!

What scares you?

AB: A couple of things scare me! Uh, bees. I’m scared of bees still, I’ve always been. I’m not an enormous fan of the dark. I have sort of the cliché childhood fears. I have become more recently scared of death. I think just as I get older and as you get older, you go, “Oh, right, there’s only one go at this!” I’m never gonna be 34 again or 33 or 32, so some of that stuff starts to compound … that’s a new fear.


Colin Donnell as Roy Scheider in THE SHARK IS BROKEN

I’d love to talk about fear and the lasting impression that Jaws made on audiences. What do you think it is about the film that resonates to this day?

Colin Donnell: I think there’s a lot of things. I think, accidentally, Steven had to come up with ways to shoot the movie that ended up working out in his favor. Not showing the shark as much because it was broken added so much to what anxiety was already there on camera. I think John Williams’ score, you know, he’s got two notes that just tickle your spine. It’s incredible, what he’s able to do. That’s why he’s a master of what he does. I mean, it was the first of its kind. And the balls of Steven Spielberg to do what he did and shoot a movie the way that he did. And, of course, the performances were incredible, so you end up having a movie that just sort of transcends the decades and still is just as good rewatching it for the tenth time as it was the first time.

And speaking of incredible performances, you are crushing it as Roy Scheider – you truly are. All three characters in the play have a moment of showcasing their pressure and their frustration and their fear. Roy has his moment in private, and it’s very unexpected to the audience. Can you talk about that moment?

CD: I mean, it’s been a journey. It was a new scene that was added for this production. It didn’t exist before. And so when we started to get into it, we worked for a very long time to try to figure out exactly what it was. It was always a private moment, which felt very important for who Roy was as a human, and for us, it was a matter of what was gonna feel right, because it’s kind of funny… He’s in a Speedo, and there’s an element of humor in that image up on stage, but it takes a dark turn pretty quickly. Honestly, it’s a great moment for me, personally, because he rides a very fine line, and you finally get to see all this pressure building and building, and it has to go somewhere, and we get to see that, which is very satisfying!

What scares you?

CD: Spiders! I’m terrified. I’m finally at a point where I can see one from across the room, and say, “Thank you for being here and taking care of the other creatures,” but I am terrified of spiders.

It’s an understood distance!

CD: Yeah, I spent some time in Australia.  You know exactly where I’m gonna go – the huntsman! They’re like… they own homes! If one had been in the apartment or home that we were staying in while we were there, I would have moved out and given over my keys to the huntsman. I would have been fine with it.

Are you someone who’s affected by stage fright? If you are, how do you approach it or handle it?

CD: I’ve never really gotten stage fright. I get nerves, for sure … Some people go dry when they’re anticipating getting in front of an audience for the first time. I have the opposite problem where I just salivate like crazy, which is probably bad if I’m ever being chased by someone. I’m just gonna leave a trail of drool behind me. I meditate. I meditate twice a day. I have for the last sixteen years now, and that has helped me. I mean, it’s been a game-changer in my life for a number of reasons, but it helps me – not detach, but to tune in more to what’s going on in my life and what’s going on in any given situation! It makes me really embrace it all.

Alex Brightman, Ian Shaw and Colin Donnell recreate a classic scene from JAWS in THE SHARK IS BROKEN.



Guy Masterson, director of THE SHARK IS BROKEN

Congratulations on opening night!

Guy Masterson: Thank you very much! You saw it?

I did see it. It’s remarkable.

GM: Oh good, thank you! It would be terrible if you thought it was terrible!

Can you imagine? No, I was very impressed. I would love to pick your brain a little bit about directing in such a confined space. These men are trapped on a boat.

GM: Exactly, how do you do that? Basically, there are certain combinations… [gesturing moving actors around] Dreyfuss-Shaw-Scheider; Shaw-Scheider-Dreyfuss… It’s almost like there’s a reason to get up for everything, and there’s a reason to sit down … You’ve got to understand what those influences are and why. There’s a moment where they do sit down for a good nearly ten minutes! It’s very static. Almost nothing happens. So then, that relies on the actors and the writing to really bring you in and make you feel you’re in there, listening to those moments. It’s an echo of the scar scene in Jaws. For the most part, there’s very little to play with, so my job is just to make it as active as I can but keep people listening to the words. If it’s working for me, generally it’s working for the audience, too. I mean, that’s a big claim, but…

I think you know what you’re doing! The film, for five decades now, has continued to frighten people. Why do you think that is?

GM: Well, it’s just brilliantly created and constructed. Steven Spielberg is a master storyteller. He knows how to play every beat of a movie. He knows exactly what he’s doing and the reactions he’s eliciting. And in some ways, this play is structured in a similar way. We know exactly what every beat is doing for the audience and what it’s leading them down into, emotionally. So I think that’s what we tried to achieve with this [is] a tribute, if you like, to Steven’s storytelling but also to the making of the great movie that it was. Steven turned out to be possibly the greatest moviemaker in history, and in some ways, this is both a tribute to him and Ian’s dad and Dreyfus and Schieder’s stability. It’s all of those things. We wouldn’t have had that movie if those three guys hadn’t got to the end, you know? Thanks to Scheider for that!


THE SHARK IS BROKEN co-writer, Joseph Nixon.

Hello, I’m with RUE MORGUE, we are a horror publication…

Joseph Nixon: Ooh, I like a bit of horror!

Oh, good! As the co-writer of this production, can you talk about the dynamic of writing this play with the son of the man who it’s about?

JN: I’ve known Ian [Shaw] for a long time, about 25 years. We used to live together, and I know his family. I’ve stayed at his stepmother’s house, so we’re really close friends, really. He suggested this to me, and, of course, half of me thought, “This is the best idea ever! They’re gonna love this! It’s gonna go on to Broadway!” The other part of me, of course, thought, “Ah, this is a bit tricky, innit?” He’s got a very large family, and, of course, his dad is dead and unable to defend himself, and people get upset about these things, don’t they? So we had to be very careful not to tread on people’s toes. And, of course, Ian’s very much like his dad, and having lived with him, I was able to base Robert Shaw on Ian, basically. They’re very similar people.

Jaws has frightened people for half a century now. What do you think it is about this movie that remains scary to this day?

JN: Well, it’s very well-made, isn’t it? It’s the first big, flashy, explosive, blockbuster. It’s really well-written; The characters are great. Spielberg really, really, really had it as a spectacle director back then. (Not that he doesn’t now, but he really did!) But I don’t really know why it’s scary because it’s quite easy to avoid a shark, isn’t it? It’s not like Michael Myers, who can get you anywhere! All you have to do is not go in the sea, and the shark can’t get you. I suppose it’s a primal thing, innit? It’s this horrible, cold, dead-eyed creature that’s not like you. It’s as unlike you as possible, really, and doesn’t have any emotions. It just moves and could destroy you. I guess that must be it, I suppose.

What scares you?

JN: I’m terrified of heights, actually. I don’t like heights at all. Vertigo is a big one for me, with James Stewart. I have that thing where you’re up so high and you think you’re gonna throw yourself off. Have you ever had that?

 “L’appel du vide,” I think it’s called. “The call of the void.” Yes, I’ve had that. It’s not the desire to jump, but the thought that it could happen.

JN: I could do this! Then I get there, and I don’t do it. [Laughs] So, yeah.

Best to stay away from heights, then!

JN: You won’t find me up there! [Points to the top of the theater]

The cast of THE SHARK IS BROKEN on the Orca set.

While on the blue carpet, we were also fortunate enough to speak with some of THE SHARK IS BROKEN’s celebrity patrons.


Marina Squerciati and Christian Slater on the blue carpet.

I’d love to talk a little bit about fear with you! What do you think it is about JAWS that, for almost 50 years continues to frighten audiences?

Christian Slater: Oh, my God! I mean, it was a masterfully-made movie. It was suspenseful, it build brilliantly, the acting was great, and, look, it was just an amazing movie at the time! The way Spielberg kind of – because the shark was broken, they had to kind of, keep it secret! So you never really knew – it was always this kind of menacing presence until the end, which was great.

Do you, as an actor, get stage fright or screen fright? And if you do, how do you process that?

CS: You know? Sure, I have anxiety, I suffer from terrible anxiety! I mean, yeah, it’s the worst. But I just say, fuck it, and go out there and do the best I can, I guess. I say a little prayer, and let the chips fall where they may.

Because RUE MORGUE is a horror publication, would you like to talk about fear for a little bit?

Marina Squerciati: The last scary movie I watched was Parasite, and I am so fearful that I watched the entire thing from the bathroom with the door cracked open. I’m such a scaredy cat!

What do you think it is about JAWS that still resonates fifty years after it was released?

That’s a good question, and I hope someone gets the answer better than I! But I would just say that we live with animals. That’s, like, the natural existence, right? And because of cities and everything, we’ve pushed that further away into the forests, right? The ocean is something that we experience – that danger, like, we’re walking into their homes. So I think that that’s something; It’s a vacation and fun with danger, ever-present together, and that’s what makes it scary.

No one has said that yet! That was brilliant!

MS: Okay, good! I nailed it!

I have one more question for you. What scares you?

MS: Everything! I have major anxiety about everything! Planes! Like… turbulence… someone told me they put a rock in Jell-O and then they shook the Jell-O to show you that that’s what air turbulence is. I was like, well, that doesn’t help!


THE TODAY SHOW’s Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts.

Mr. Roker, what do you think it is about Jaws that continues to scare people?

Al Roker: Well, you know, just again – it’s a classic. I mean, ironically, the shark was broken, the fact that the shark doesn’t show up for the first third of the movie, and the imagination builds. You know? It just goes to show, you don’t have to be like The Meg 2 to scare people.


What do you think it is about Jaws that still frightens people?

James Monroe Iglehart: I think it’s the reality that we all wanna go into the water and realize we’re in no control there. There’s no control, whatsoever. You put on your wetsuit, and you get on your surfboard, and you think you’re awesome. And a shark thinks you’re a seal, and you are not awesome at all. You are literally a part of the food chain. I think that’s why it was so real for us because we were like, “Oh, my God! That could happen! Yeah!”

Do you, as an actor, experience stage fright? And if you do, what do you do to get past that?

Yeah, I do – every time I get on stage. But I’ve learned now to let my fear work for me. Instead of pushing me back, I let it push me forward. I just get my stuff together and let my fear fly into a formation that pushes me on stage because I know I’m well-prepared. But, yeah, the minute I don’t have stage fright, it’s time for me to stop.

One last question: What scares you?

Oh! Things happening to my family. That’s it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to horror films … but  I have this feeling that if I met a ghost, I’d be like, “Look, man, just get out of my house! You have your side, I have my side.” But if something happens to my family, that’s what scares me.


After almost fifty years, what do you think it is about Jaws that continues to frighten people?

Tom Kirdahy: It’s a perfect movie in my mind. Most of the world didn’t know who Steven Spielberg was, and that movie changed everything. And I’ll tell you, I still hear the music every time I enter the ocean.

Those two notes!

TK: Those two notes! I mean, it’s amazing. It’s a classic. It’s truly a classic!

What scares you?

TK: Ha! What scares me? Opening nights! They excite me, actually. And Donald Trump scares me.

THE SHARK IS BROKEN is now playing at the John Golden Theater on 45th St. in New York City. Get tickets here!

Ricky J. Duarte
Ricky is a writer, actor, singer, and the host of the "Rick or Treat Horrorcast" podcast. He lives in a super haunted apartment above a cemetery in New York City with his evil cat, Renfield, and the ghosts of reasons he moved to NYC in the first place., @RickOrTreatPod