Jaws invented the rule of “don’t show the monster.” With Jaws it was a necessity because they had so many problems with the mechanical shark, so they had to come up with creative solutions. Now it’s the way suspense-thrillers are made. The Meg benefits from CGI which doesn’t fail when you’re out on the ocean, but director Jon Turteltaub still defers to Jaws.
“Everything great about shark movies was done in Jaws,” Turteltaub said.
“So the goal is what can we do that isn’t the same but as close to awesome as we can make it. They had some really good mechanical tricks, some really smart mechanical tricks. These days we rely more on CG because it’s a lot safer and it saves us a lot of time on set. We probably showed the shark more than we [should] have, and we could’ve waited a little longer but we kept thinking by the time this movie comes out, half the audience will have seen the shark in commercials and trailers already, so what the hell are we waiting for?”
When the giant megalodon attacks, the movie still builds up to those moments where you see her giant jaws open up for a gulp. And Turteltaub treated Meg like the film’s real star.
“It’s still dark when she appears at the window. In theater you know, especially when you have a female lead, that actress deserves a great entrance,” he told us. “In a movie, it’s the same.”
“You’ve got to give someone a good entrance. Jason [Statham] gets a nice entrance. The shark deserves one too.”
Filming on the water hasn’t gotten any easier since the days of Jaws, but it does have one benefit.
“The chance to go out and not be in the studio, taking a boat with a bunch of cast and not have the hundreds of people in your face all day long because you’re out on the water is fantastic,” Turteltaub said. “It’s one of the reasons these jobs are just great. I’m happy to complain about how hard it is to shoot, so from a filmmaking standpoint it’s harder. From a fun standpoint, it’s awesome.”
Perhaps it helps that his human star had so much aquatic experience. Jason Statham comes to The Meg as both a cinematic action hero, and a former Olympic diver.
“It’s funny, when you’re an Olympic diver, you don’t even need to know how to swim,” Turteltaub said. “Your work is doing gymnastics off a board and just plop into the water. Someone can pull you out with a stick, but he’s become an avid scuba diver. That’s where we really benefited.”
The Meg opens Friday, August 10.