Steven Spielberg: Why he regrets the impact of Jaws on sharks

Important points
  • After the 1975 blockbuster film, sport fishing took off in America.
  • Shark populations have declined 71 percent since the 1970s.
  • Some researchers have blamed films like Jaws, while others say this is incorrect.
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg said he sincerely regrets the “decimation of the shark population” following the success of his 1975 film Jaws.
Mr. Spielberg’s Oscar-winning thriller tells the story of a man-eating great white shark that attacked a US coastal town, prompting a surge in sport fishing across America.
“I truly regret, and to this day, the decimation of the shark population as a result of the book and the film. I’m really, really sorry,” Mr Spielberg, 75, told BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs programme.

According to a study in Nature last year, the world’s oceanic shark population has declined by 71 percent since the 1970s due to overfishing.

A man in a suit and glasses.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg said he sincerely regrets the “decimation of the shark population” following the success of his 1975 film Jaws. Source: Getty / Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

The Shark Conservation Fund, meanwhile, says 36 percent of the world’s 1,250 shark and ray species are currently threatened with extinction.

Researchers have blamed films like Jaws for playing a role in public perceptions of sharks and driving support for shark killing.
However, others argue that this gives too much importance to Hollywood influence.

Spielberg, also known for Hollywood blockbusters such as ET, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, chose the 10 records he would record if he were stranded on a desert island on the Sunday show.

“It was a tightrope walk”

When asked by presenter Lauren Laverne how he feels about real sharks circling his deserted island, he said: “It’s one of the things I still fear.
“Not getting eaten by a shark, but these sharks are kind of mad at me for the feeding frenzy of crazy sport fishermen that happened after 1975.”
Mr. Spielberg also spoke about his successful directing career, including his latest project – the semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans.

Mr. Spielberg’s latest film tells the largely true story of his own childhood and introduction to filmmaking in post-war America.

The film, starring Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, has received critical acclaim, earning top nominations at both the 2023 Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.
Discussing the making of the film, Mr. Spielberg admitted that he initially thought the project was the “most lenient thing I’ve ever asked people to accompany me on.”
Describing it as “$40 million (AUD$60 million) worth of therapy,” he said, “I didn’t really know what I was doing other than responding to a need I had.
“Being an orphan or recently bereaved by the loss of both parents to regain some of those memories in a way that actors I really respected wouldn’t seem overly indulgent.

“So it was a tightrope walk for a while.”

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