Yes, that is absolutely true. In the fall of 1977, Hollywood descended on the Gulf Coast to film the sequel to the 1975 blockbuster “Jaws.
In the second installation of the series, Roy Scheider (Police Chief Martin Brody) is again charged with protecting the small New England town of Amity from a monstrous shark that is terrorizing the local waters. Many of the community scenes depicting small-town life were shot in Martha’s Vineyard, while the water scenes were filmed here locally.
Universal Studios scouted the Florida coast to determine which area was best suited for filming. Navarre Beach was found to be the ideal location with its mild winter climate and shallow waters. Shooting for the movie also took place at Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island and as far east as Choctawhatchee Bay near Fort Walton Beach.
The Holiday Inn in Navarre was used as the film’s headquarters because of its relatively remote location. The crew took up 100 of the hotel’s 200 rooms. The ground floor was converted to offices, and some of the Gulf-front suites were remodeled to accommodate stars David Brown and Roy Scheider. Although the shoot was scheduled to run a couple of months, the film crew ended up staying for a year. In the end, the hotel billed the studio for over $1 million.
The community got involved when the filmmakers advertised for local talent. The producers were mainly looking for extras, but they also printed pictures of the actors in newspapers hoping to find look-alikes to act as doubles. Applications were available at local motels for anyone who was interested. As a result, hundreds of area residents were thrust into the spotlight. High school students, whole families and local boating businesses were all used in the production.
The film, however, was marred with production problems from the beginning. In one instance, the crew built a full-size cutout of a lighthouse to make Navarre look more like the New England coast. Shortly after it was built, the enormous prop was struck by lightning and had to be rebuilt. In addition, the shooting survived tensions among the crew, breakdowns of the mechanical shark, minor boating accidents and bad weather.
Finally completed, Jaws 2” hit theaters in the summer of 1978 and grossed nearly $10 million in the opening weekend. Using true movie magic, the scenes are sewn together giving the illusion of an East Coast town, but there is a subtle giveaway that the movie was not filmed entirely on location. One scene shows a recreational SCUBA diver playing with a spiny lobster just before a shark attack. The spiny lobster species is native to Florida and the Caribbean, not New England.
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