Jaws: The Revenge has gathered a huge cult following, and with the film turning 30 this year we’ve managed to bag an exclusive chat with star Mitchell Anderson.
The 55 year old played the role of Sean Brody, who was savaged by a very vengeful gigantic shark within the first 15 minutes in one of the most brutal scenes in the entire series.
How did you get the part on Jaws: The Revenge?
I auditioned for the role with the director Joe Sargent. It was one of the rare instances, especially that early in my career, when there was not a long audition process. I believe I got the part based on just two auditions.
What was it like working with Lorraine Gary?
She was lovely. I really only worked with her for a couple of weeks. Much of my time on the movie was spent alone in a big tank on the Universal lot. The exteriors were shot on location in Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks. So Lorraine and I spent quite a bit of time together, which helped with our short, but important on screen relationship.
The film itself has become a cult phenomenon over the years, do you ever get questions about it?
All the time. It seems to air a lot on tv. Whenever it’s on I get text messages and emails from friends and family all over the country. It’s funny how ten minutes in a film like Jaws, The Revenge can leave such a lasting legacy. The best is when the children of friends and family see it for the first time, the new generation, they get a kick out of the idea that I was in it. And that I get killed in such a brutal way!
Your death scene is one of the most graphic in the entire series, tell us about filming that?
We did most of the exterior long shots in January in Martha’s Vineyard. It was cold! I think it took three or four nights in the harbor to get all the shots. While I had a stunt man for the last moment, getting pulled under, the rest of it was me. The special effects people worked hard to make it as graphic as possible. They rigged a blood tube and pump around my back and out my sleeve where the shark chomped my arm. The night we did that close up, it was about 20 degrees, it was about 3am, and I remember freezing my ass off! It took an hour in a hot shower to wash off all the blood and get warm. I do think that one shot, when Sean realizes his arm is gone, is pretty real. Even now, when I see it, it gives me chills. And as a note – my mother was not having it. She saw the movie, but basically cried for the rest of the film after my death scene. And just when she was back to normal, they did that quick flashback at the end. She still talks about how difficult it was to see that.
The scene itself was one I found quite disturbing at a young age, with the choir singing as you were being eaten, was this always Joe Sargeant’s vision?
I think it was disturbing and actually one of the best scenes in the movie. If you’re making a thriller, you want it to be SO uncomfortable and scary. It was most definitely Joe’s vision to begin the movie this way.
What was your favourite day on-set on Revenge?
It was all fun. I was a young actor and this was my first big movie experience. But the day I still talk about is when I was filming in the tank at Universal. They had a replica of the boat on hydraulics in the middle of this huge pool. We were shooting my close up POV shots as the shark attacks the boat and takes my arm, finally pulling me under the water. The hydraulics were to shake and roll the boat as it was getting attacked. At one point, I was out there alone on the boat waiting while they set up a shot, and I heard this crash. The boat had fallen off the rack. I called out to the crew on the other side of the pool, “Uh guys? I think I’m sinking.” They laughed and said I was just being dramatic. But sure enough, two minutes later, the boat sank to the bottom of the tank and I swam to the side. It was all pretty funny, if you don’t count the days lost and the money spent fixing it. It became a story in Army Archard’s column in the Hollywood Reporter and is sort of part of the lore of Jaws: The Revenge. At least it’s a story I tell all the time when people ask me about the movie.
In an alternate version do you wish it was you who got to go to the Bahamas and fight the shark?
Well sure. Who wouldn’t? I would have loved the experience of shooting in the Bahamas and being a bigger part of the movie.
What was your initial reaction when you saw the finished film?
Well, I knew instantly it would achieve cult status. But I also knew it was going to get roundly panned by the press. I think the year it came out it may have gotten a couple Razzies (for worst movie). For me though, it was only a great experience. I was in a huge studio movie, and even though it wasn’t a huge part, I had opening title credits, AND an iconic death scene at the hands (or jaws) of the world’s most famous shark.
Tell us about your new TV series After Forever?
As you may know I left show business many years ago. I own a successful restaurant in Atlanta which has been open for nearly 12 years. Except for a couple plays in the last decade, I have not even really thought about acting again. This role came to me through the writer and creator of the series, Kevin Spirtas, whom I’ve known since 1986 when we were both started our careers. He called me sometime last year and said he had created this little web series with a part for me! I read it, and liked it a lot. It’s the story of how one moves on after the sudden death of their partner of many years. Much of the eight, ten minute episodes is told in flashback. I play the dead guy! (Maybe that’s my fate – to play dead guys!) We will be filming in New York City starting on April 1. I haven’t acted in front of a camera in many many years. I’m excited to do it, as it is a diversion from my everyday life, in the kitchen at MetroFresh.