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We Spoke To Tokyo Police Club About How Great Jaws Was

Talking to the keyboard/guitarist of Tokyo Police Club about Hollywood's cinematic legend, a shark.

Jaws is the greatest motion picture of all time. I could probably write a dissertation on it, but thankfully I don’t have to. Surprisingly, not everyone feels this way, but not long ago I met someone who did, and he happens to be in a band. Speak ill of Facebook all you will, but thanks to the social network, I discovered Graham Wright, who plays keyboards and guitars in Tokyo Police Club and also records music under his own name, was a fellow Jaws enthusiast. No surprise then, when I reached out to ask if he’d want to shoot the shit about Steven Spielberg’s 1975 Oscar-winning film, an adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws, his response was “Fuck yes!!” So, over burgers at The Rex in Toronto, Graham and I discussed why Jaws is so important us, why it's the rare occasion where the film trumps the novel, how beloved yet shitty the sequels were, and how remaking it isn’t impossible.

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Noisey: I am a shark fanatic. I’m completely infatuated with them. Jaws is easily my favourite movie. Why is it yours?
Graham Wright: I think there was a period in my life three years ago where I reconsidered everything I considered to be my favourite. Before that I figured my “favourite” was everything I felt was the best. Like in a way that society would accept. So my favourite movie would be The Godfather or Citizen Kane. And I love those movies. But I realized that there isn’t a movie I want to watch more than Jaws. I think it’s a perfect movie. I love every second of it and I never get tired of watching it. I never stop being moved by it or enthralled watching the end, the ultimate battle with the shark.

How many times do you think you’ve seen Jaws?
It’s got to be 20 if not more. There were times I saw it in theatres and times I caught it on TV.

At what age did you first see Jaws?
The first time I remember seeing it was at my parents’ house, when I was 13 or 14, which makes me think I caught some of it earlier. But it was on this tiny TV, our secondary TV in the upstairs cabinet. I remember one night vividly, being up near the screen because the remote didn’t work, and it’s the scene when they’re checking out the boat and Ben Gardner’s head pops up. I remember shutting the TV off and turning the lights back on. That’s the first time it connected with me.

Have you ever written a song about the movie?
No. I think you can find inspiration anywhere though. I’ve never sat down to write a song about anything. I just start writing gibberish … like what Sigur Ros never got past doing. Mouthing words, and the syllables can turn into words, and then those words can find sentences to go around them. And I find when I have three or four sentences I know what the song will be about. Sometimes they’re specific, sometimes they’re vague. But never has my subconscious put Jaws words in there, despite it having a rich, deep well of themes, stories and characters.

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Well, do you have a favourite quote? Mine would have to be Mayor Vaughn’s line to Brody: “Martin, it's all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell shark, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”
It’s probably cheap to say the entire Indianapolis dialogue.

That’s a classic. Do you know it off by heart?
I don’t. I should know it though. It’d be a great party trick.

Do you have a favourite character?
Well, all three shark hunters are great. But I always come back to Brody. He’s such a perfect, sympathetic centre of the story. He’s vulnerable, yet confident. And you never doubt his ability, but you can still doubt his invulnerability. He reacts to everything perfectly. He’s the perfect audience surrogate. It’s such a lived in performance.

I just read Peter Benchley’s book last year for the first time and I couldn’t believe how different it was. Spielberg really changed the story. But I prefer the Spielbergian version to the book.
The book is a bit pulpy, but the movie may be the best realization of what Spielberg does so well. He creates a good world with happy people. It’s so rare to see a good marriage depicted on screen. They fight but they love each other, you never doubt it. To me that’s so much stronger, especially when you’re pinned against this embodiment of evil. There’s something so much more at stake. Whereas with the book, I don’t care if the shark kills them because everyone is miserable. The book seems to be more about that small-town, dreary misery, and it uses the shark as a symbol of all this unknown horribleness lurking just of sight, ready to destroy everything. Whereas in the movie it’s a threat against something that’s actually good.

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What is your favourite scene?
The dinner table scene where [Sean] is imitating [Brody]. That is a scene where I think, “Man, I’m so glad they made these choices over what’s in the book.” In the midst of all this horror is this good moment. And it’s real and human and not unique, but special. It’s the emotional centre of the movie and it raises the stakes so much because who’s out on this boat fighting a shark but this guy with so much to lose.

What do you think is the scariest moment in Jaws?
The one that startles me the most is where they find Ben Gardner’s boat. But it’s not just scary as it is shocking. It’s a jump scare, as they call it. As far as the tension though, when Hooper is in the cage and it’s all calm, then the shark just comes out of nowhere in the mirth. That’s exactly what I was talking about, when I was in the swimming pool.

Would you ever go down in a shark cage?
I cannot see myself doing that. I’d like to say that I would. I understand that what’s in the movie is fictionalized. I wonder if anyone in history has ever been killed in a shark cage.

I’ve vowed that when I turn 40 I will travel to Cape Town and go down in a cage to see Great Whites. I might even wear an adult diaper, just to be on the safe side. What would you say is your favourite sequel?
Jaws 2 is clearly the best of them, but compared to Jaws it’s just so garbage. I have a soft spot for Jaws 3-D because it’s the most batshit, which I appreciate. The first time I saw it I was a kid running a high fever and it was the Sunday afternoon movie. So watching this already lunatic movie, coupled with me borderline hallucinating made it quite a trip. If you’re going to make a sequel you might as well go all out absurd with it.

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I have a soft spot and weird fascination with unnecessary sequels. I love The Matrix sequels and The Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. I love when you take something that was done, finished and the only way forward is to go bigger and more insane. They just throw the rulebook out the window. It’s never as good, but there are some interesting results.

Have you seen Jaws 3-D in 3-D?
The Fox in the east end of Toronto showed it about five years ago but I couldn’t go.

My dad took me to see Jaws: The Revenge in theatres when I was pretty young. He shouldn’t have. But I love how it’s often called the worst movie of all time. Michael Caine has some great quotes about that movie.
Yeah, the one about the house it built. That’s a legendary quote. For anyone who works in the arts, we all sympathize.

Do you think they could ever remake Jaws? I feel like it’s coming, since they remake everything.
The thing is, you can do anything. You get the right minds together and you can do it. They made a movie about LEGO and it was brilliant. But who’s gonna touch Jaws besides some hack? It would have to be a new adaptation of the book. Because you’re not going to make a Spielberg movie better.

That’s not a bad idea. There’s a lot to work with in that book that Spielberg never used.
I can’t look at the book objectively at this point. But maybe someone unfamiliar with the phenomenon can make a gritty, dark and dramatic, more conventional prestige picture out of it. Y’know, about a failing marriage, a town on the brink of bankruptcy and a corrupt mayor, and then have the shark be more symbolic. What’s weird about the book is that it spends so little time talking about the shark. And then it ends so incredibly abruptly. The shark dies and you have to go back and re-read it to find out how. And it ends two sentences later. It just stops.

Cam Lindsay is a writer living in Canada. He's on Twitter.