Jaws is a classic horror film that holds up even 45 years after its initial release. What would it look like to recast the film for 2020?
Jaws is a film classic for horror fans and cinephiles alike — what would it look like to recast the film in 2020? Jaws is famous for being Steven Spielberg’s first hit of many, and for its famously fickle mechanical prop shark. The film has had an enormous cultural impact, even going as far as perpetuating a few major misconceptions about sharks and their behaviors.
Set in the fictional beach town of Amity Island, Jaws follows Chief of Police Martin Brody as he looks into the untimely death of a young woman in Amity’s waters. When an initial coroner’s report deems the cause of death a shark attack, Brody sets out to protect the town by shutting down the beaches, thus keeping everyone out of the water and out of harm’s way. However, he is met with resistance when Mayor Larry Vaughn insists Brody back off, for fear of the financial repercussions a bad tourist season could have on the town. Things escalate, and eventually Brody calls upon oceanographer Matt Hooper and Sam Quint, a career fisherman who has hunted down more than his fair share of sharks for assistance.
Together, the three men board a small boat in the hopes that Brody’s determination, Hooper’s encyclopedic knowledge of sharks, and Quint’s fishing experience and skill will combine to successfully capture the shark that is terrorizing Amity and its beaches. Let’s take a look at what the cast might look like if the horror classic Jaws was made in 2020.
Karl Urban As Quint
For a modern retelling of Jaws, Karl Urban is the perfect candidate to play Quint. Quint is a seasoned shark hunter who is both gruff and a little kooky — a combination Urban has proven more than once that he can pull off splendidly. He would be able to channel two major roles from his career to play Quint: Billy Butcher from Amazon’s The Boys and Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the 2009 Star Trek reboot movies.
Both Billy Butcher and Bones have a rather brusque attitude, and where Bones is a little more orderly and strait-laced, Billy is far more chaotic and erratic. Quint strikes a balance between both of those extremes: he is incredibly self-assured from all of his years hunting sharks and is more than comfortable barking orders at his companions, but he also has a cheeky sense of humor and is capable of expressing genuine warmth for his companions, even if only while drunk. Urban has all the swagger and eccentricity required for the role, and would surely do the role of Sam Quint justice.
Oscar Isaac As Chief Brody
Chief Martin Brody is a more complex character than one might imagine. More than just a standard heroic figure, Brody is forced to deal not only with the harrowing circumstances taking place in Amity, but must also confront his own deep-seated fear of water and drowning. An incredibly versatile actor, Oscar Isaac is the perfect choice to take on this iconic role. He would be able to portray Brody’s many sides with facility, and embody the determination, anxiety, and compassion the character requires. Brody is far from one-dimensional, and has fleshed out relationships with his wife and children. He also expresses a real understanding of the mayor’s concerns, however much he may disagree with them.
Brody’s sometimes tough exterior is indicative of an emotionally expansive person, and Isaac’s storied career as an actor would serve him well in Jaws. Isaac could easily draw from his role as Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy when it comes time for Brody’s heroics, but his role in the 2015 miniseries Show Me a Hero would also be invaluable in portraying Brody’s character. Politics lie at the heart of an important conflict in Jaws, and having played real-life politician Nick Wasicsko, Isaac is more than capable of playing those less death-defying, but nonetheless complicated circumstances.
John Boyega As Matt Hooper
Not the least of which is his fantastic chemistry with fellow actor Oscar Isaac, there are a great many reasons that John Boyega would make an excellent Matt Hooper. Hooper is a well-off shark expert from the nearby Oceanographic Institute who brings his know-how to Amity. With the intention of helping Brody determine the specifics of the shark attacks plaguing the community, he winds up sticking around, determined to uncover the truth and to stop the killer shark. Hooper, like Quint, is confident in his knowledge and skews a little bit to the quirky side. At the heart of things, he is enthusiastic and passionate, and takes the safety of Amity’s people incredibly seriously.
Boyega could draw on his role in the 2017 film The Circle, in which he played Ty Lafitte, a tech genius seeking to regain control of his own invention. Though not parallel to Hooper’s story, Ty similarly must try to control something he knows well intellectually, but can no longer predict. Additionally, Boyega’s chemistry with would-be co-star Oscar Isaac is vital in expressing the profound connection between Hooper and Brody. Drawing from his Star Wars character Finn for some of Hooper’s warmth and idiosyncrasy, Boyega would undoubtedly do an excellent job in this role.
Aside from the central trio, Jaws has a few other important roles to be cast, such as Chief Brody’s wife, Ellen, and Larry Vaughn, mayor of Amity Island. Although he is under an understandable amount of pressure, Mayor Vaughn needs to embody a certain sense of unscrupulousness, and Matthew Mcfadyen of HBO’s Succession is an actor who could be up to the task. In Succession, his character Tom Wambsgans is somehow both slimy and occasionally endearing, qualities which would be useful in playing the mayor who, while focused more on financial stability than public safety, does prove that he has a heart, even if its a little too late.
Rachel McAdams comes to mind as a sound choice to play Ellen Brody, given her ability to seamlessly flesh out her characters, whether in comedic roles—like her character in Game Night—or in more dramatic ones. McAdams would also shine when Ellen’s role is expanded in Jaws: The Revenge, drawing on her turn as Ani Bezzerides in HBO’s True Detective. Roles like the shark’s first victim, Chrissie, and the mother of the tragically killed Alex Kintner could easily be played by newcomers or by established actors like Lili Reinhart (Riverdale) and Lupita Nyong’o (Us), respectively.
An iconic film like Jaws requires a strong cast, and the original trio of Roy Scheider (Brody), Richard Dreyfuss (Hooper), and Robert Shaw (Quint) leave big hypothetical shoes to fill. Actors like Urban, Isaac, and Boyega have proven their immense skill in various projects throughout their careers, and Jaws fans would certainly be eager to see new takes on such beloved and fascinating characters. It’s interesting to consider if Steven Spielberg would have any interest in a reboot of his classic shark movie, especially now that modern technology—and what would surely be a much bigger budget—could allow for much more ease in terms of creating and utilizing the iconic shark. One thing is for certain though: Jaws is a story that is utterly timeless, with an original that holds up 45 years after its release, and exciting possibilities should it be retold in 2020 or the near future.