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How George Lucas Got Stuck In The Mechanical Shark From Jaws

"Jaws" is one of the most influential and genre-defining thriller films ever made, and it cemented Steven Spielberg as one of the 20th century's most visionary directors. The movie is praised for the way it handles suspense. The antagonistic shark -– and its titular jaws -– are almost never onscreen, which (over a two-hour runtime) helps build to one of the most anxiety-inducing crescendos ever committed to film.

But keeping the shark offscreen wasn't a deliberate artistic decision. It was a mechanical necessity, and one of the many concessions Spielberg had to make during the film's notoriously turbulent production process.

Spielberg insisted on shooting the movie at sea, which made sense for a young director trying to capture an authentic sense of isolation and foreboding on open water. But it made life harder on everyone, and it was one of several questionable directorial decisions -– a handful of which damaged equipment, ruined props, angered crew members, and in one instance, nearly injured George Lucas seriously.

George Lucas vs. the shark from Jaws

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are both iconic filmmakers, and the two famously collaborated together on the Indiana Jones franchise, which includes three of the greatest adventure films of all time –- oh, and "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." According to Slate, their friendship dates back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when both young auteurs realized they could learn from each other's work. As such, it was no surprise when, in 1974, Lucas visited the set of "Jaws" during pre-production.

Per CinemaBlend, Lucas was curious about the function of the film's gigantic great white shark, and he poked his head into the animatronic beast's mouth. Meanwhile, nearby, Spielberg and writer John Milius saw an opportunity to play a prank on Lucas. They activated the shark, causing its jaws to close around Lucas' head. Ha-ha. Funny joke. No harm, no foul, right?

Unfortunately, the shark malfunctioned with Lucas' head still inside its mouth. It absolutely refused to release him, and for a few panicky moments -– until Lucas was able to free himself -– one of history's most legendary filmmakers was stuck head-first inside one of history's most legendary movie villains.

There's probably a metaphor about the film industry somewhere in that story. But we're just glad Lucas (and his friendship with Spielberg) survived the event because it gave us "Raiders of the Lost Ark" just a few years later.