A close look at Nick Marra’s uncanny sculpture of ‘Quint’ played by actor Robert Shaw in ‘Jaws.’
While you may not know sculptor Nick Marra’s name, you have definitely seen his work in films like The Hateful Eight, Jurrasic Park and the television series American Horror Story. Marra has been involved in the business of making things appear to be real for over two decades. While I’d be foolish to say that the artist’s life-sized sculpture of actor Robert Shaw as “Quint” from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws is the best thing he’s ever done, I would challenge you to disagree that the likeness is so uncanny it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between the real, (late) Mr. Shaw, and Marra’s sculpture of Shaw in character for his role.
Marra’s sculpture made its debut at this year’s Monsterpalooza and it almost puts his previous eerily lifelike sculpture of Yul Brynner’s animatronic character of the “Gunslinger” from the 1973 film Westworld (which was recently, and quite wonderfully reprised by actor Ed Harris in the television adaptation of the film) to shame. Sculpture is an art form I have a deep reverence for and I have many, many favorites in the field such a Mike Hill and Jordu Schell. Marra’s mirror image of Quint is so desperately spot-on that it’s rendered me at a near loss for words. I mean, Marra’s faux Quint is crushing a beer can in his right hand and it’s so authentic that you can hear the tin cracking from the force of Quint’s shark-hating hands just looking at it. In other words, the fake Quint looks so much like the real Quint that I’m not even sure if I’m the real me anymore. Though I only have two photos to show you, I have also posted a short video of the remarkably talented Marra talking about his latest work in which you can see the sculpture in all its glory after the jump…
Robert Shaw liked to drink. Indeed, the actor, author and playwright liked to drink a lot. And it often led to some disastrous consequences.
During the making of Jaws, Robert Shaw had an alcohol-induced blackout during the filming of that famous S.S. Indianapolis speech. Shaw had convinced director Steven Spielberg that as the three characters in the scene (played by Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss) had been drinking, it might be an idea to have a wee chaser before filming, just to get him in the mood. Spielberg agreed. It was an unwise decision as Shaw drank so much he had to be carried back onto the set. Hardly any filming took place that day, and Spielberg wrapped the crew at eleven in the morning.
Later that night, in the wee small hours, a panicked Shaw ‘phoned Spielberg to ask if he had done anything embarrassing as he could not remember what had happened. And would the director let him film the scene again?
The next day, a sober and contrite Shaw turned up early for work and delivered one of cinema’s most memorable speeches.
“Drink?” Shaw once famously said in 1977, “Can you imagine being a movie star and having to take it seriously without a drink?”
“I agree with Richard Burton that drink gives poetry to life. Drink for actors is an occupational hazard born largely out of fear.”
The stories of Shaw’s alcoholic excesses, often abusive behavior, and on-set pranks can sometimes overshadow his quality as an actor and his talent as a writer. The academic John Sutherland has pointed out Shaw was a far better writer than many of the best-selling authors whose books inspired the films he starred in, particularly Pete Benchley (Jaws, The Deep) and Alistair MacLean (Force 10 From Navarone), though sadly none of Shaw’s five novels or his three plays are currently in print.
I owe three people a lot for this speech. You’ve heard all this, but you’ve probably never heard it from me. There’s a lot of apocryphal reporting about who did what on Jaws and I’ve heard it for the last three decades, but the fact is the speech was conceived by Howard Sackler, who was an uncredited writer, didn’t want a credit and didn’t arbitrate for one, but he’s the guy that broke the back of the script before we ever got to Martha’s Vineyard to shoot the movie.
I hired later Carl Gottlieb to come onto the island, who was a friend of mine, to punch up the script, but Howard conceived of the Indianapolis speech. I had never heard of the Indianapolis before Howard, who wrote the script at the Bel Air Hotel and I was with him a couple times a week reading pages and discussing them.
Howard one day said, “Quint needs some motivation to show all of us what made him the way he is and I think it’s this Indianapolis incident.” I said, “Howard, what’s that?” And he explained the whole incident of the Indianapolis and the Atomic Bomb being delivered and on its way back it was sunk by a submarine and sharks surrounded the helpless sailors who had been cast adrift and it was just a horrendous piece of World War II history. Howard didn’t write a long speech, he probably wrote about three-quarters of a page.
But then, when I showed the script to my friend John Milius, John said “Can I take a crack at this speech?” and John wrote a 10-page monologue, that was absolutely brilliant but out-sized for the Jaws I was making! (laughs) But it was brilliant and then Robert Shaw took the speech and Robert did the cut-down.
Robert himself was a fine writer, who had written the play The Man in the Glass Booth. Robert took a crack at the speech and he brought it down to five pages. So, that was sort of the evolution just of that speech.
Sean Connery once remarked that From Russia With Love was his favourite Bond film, as it depended more on story and character than gadgets and special effects.
This is true but the film also had a great title song, sung by the incomparable Matt Monro, and outstanding performances from Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya in its favour.
By the time of making From Russia With Love, Lotte Lenya was a celebrated singer and actress, known for her pioneering performances in, husband, Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927) and the legendary Threepenny Opera (1928).
In From Russia With Love, Lenya played Rosa Klebb, a sadistic former SMERSH Agent who has joined SPECTRE to become Ernst Blofeld’s No. 3. You can uess what happened to 1 and 2. The name Rosa Klebb was a pun contrived by Bond author Ian Fleming, derived from the Soviet phrase for women’s rights, ‘khleb i rozy’, which is a Russian translation for ‘bread and roses’. Lenya’s perfromance as the sadistic Klebb is one of the most iconic of all Bond villains, with her poisoned tipped dagger, secreted in the toe of her shoe.
Lenya’s Klebb often overshadows Robert Shaw’s underplayed, though equally efficient Donald ‘Red’ Grant. Shaw was a highly talented man whose own personal tragedies (his father a manic depressive and alcoholic committed suicide when Robert was 12) and alcoholism hampered him from rightly claiming his position as one of Britain’s greatest actors.
Shaw established himself through years of TV and theatrical work, most notably his chilling and subtle performance as Aston in Harold Pinter‘s The Caretaker. He went on to throw hand grenades in The Battle of the Bulge (1965), and gave a deservedly Oscar-nominated performance as Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons (1966). He delivered excellent performances in Young Winston, and, as the mobster Doyle Lonnegan, in The Sting (1973), then gave two of his most iconic roles, the quietly calculating and menacing Mr Blue in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) and a scenery chewing Quint in Jaws (1975).
But Shaw’s success as an actor was countered by further personal tragedy when his second wife, Mary Ure, who had followed Shaw into alcoholism, died from an accidental overdose. Ure’s death caused Shaw considerable guilt and despair, and led the actor to become severely depressed and reclusive in his personal life.
Shaw countered this by continuing his career as a respected and award-winning novelist and playwright. His first novel The Hiding Place, was later adapted for the film, Situation Hopeless… But Not Serious (1965) starring Alec Guinness. His next, The Sun Doctor won the Hawthornden Prize. While for theatre he wrote a trilogy of plays, the centerpiece of which was his most controversial and successful drama, The Man in the Glass Booth (1967).
The Man in the Glass Booth dealt with the issues of identity, guilt and responsibility that owed much to the warped perceptions caused by Shaw’s alcoholism. Undoubtedly personal, the play however is in no way autobiographical, and was inspired by actual events surrounding the kidnapping and trial of Adolf Eichmann.
In Shaw’s version, a man believed to be a rich Jewish industrialist and Holocaust survivor, Arthur Goldman, is exposed as a Nazi war criminal. Goldman is kidnapped from his Manhattan home to stand trial in Israel. Kept in a glass booth to prevent his assassination, Goldman taunts his persecutors and their beliefs, questioning his own and their collective guilt, before symbolically accepting full responsibility for the Holocaust. At this point it is revealed Goldman has falsified his dental records and is not a Nazi war criminal, but is in fact a Holocaust survivor.
The original theatrical production was directed by Harold Pinter and starred Donald Pleasance in an award-winning performance that launched his Hollywood career. The play was later made into an Oscar nominated film directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Maximilian Schell. However, Shaw was unhappy with the production and asked for his name to be removed form the credits.
Looking back on the play and film now, one can intuit how much Shaw’s own personal life influenced the creation of one of theatre’s most controversial and tragic figures.
Bonus clips of Lotte Lenya singing ‘Pirate Jenny’ and Matt Monro after the jump…