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New Book Reveals How Michael Caine Saved Lance Guest's Life on Set of Jaws 4 (Exclusive)

Killer sharks with a score to settle were the least of the production's worries.

By Josh Weiss
Behind the scenes of Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

How many beloved film franchises are able to maintain the same level of quality after reaching their fourth movie? That is the core question posed by author Mark Edlitz (The Lost Adventures of James Bond) in his new book Movies Go Fourthwhich takes a deep dive into the kind of box office disasters you get when studios attempt to extend a cinematic narrative beyond the confines of a trilogy.

"Trilogies used to be the ultimate measure of success," Edlitz tells SYFY WIRE over email. "A trilogy is also a perfect form of storytelling; it has a beginning, middle, and end. But what happens when the story is over, and the studios and filmmakers want to continue the story? And what happens when the artist and the studio come into conflict? Movies Go Fourth is my attempt to explore how popular franchises keep these franchises fresh, relevant, and new. So to find out, I interviewed a lot of writers and directors from our favorite franchises."

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While Steven Spielberg's Jaws, the movie that literally invented the concept of the summer blockbuster, didn't require a sequel, it was just too successful for its own good. Between 1978 and 1987, Universal released three follow-ups to the maritime thriller, each of them bringing in less money and favorable reviews than the last.

Jaws 4 — subtitled The Revenge and boasting the much-ridiculed tagline of "This time it's personal" — is the most notorious among the bunch. Even Spielberg himself couldn't resist the urge to acknowledge how far the series had strayed from his original masterpiece when he approved the Jaws 19 marquee ("This time it's REALLY personal") seen during Marty's trip to 2015 in Back to the Future Part II.

"Jaws 4 has become a shorthand for a 'bad movie.' But look at the talent — Michael Caine, who could not accept his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award because he was shooting the movie — and Joseph Sargent, director of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," Edlitz continues. "It did not come together as the filmmakers wanted, but the movie was an earnest attempt to make a thrilling and dramatic movie. Ultimately, it was hard to overcome the premise that a shark was seeking revenge against the family that killed a completely different shark."

RELATED: Steven Spielberg 'truly' regrets demonization of sharks and harmful sport fishing caused by 'Jaws'

Head below for an exclusive extract from the author's interview with The Last Starfighter's Lance Guest, who took on the role of Michael "Mike" Brody in Jaws: The Revenge (the son of Amity Island's Chief Martin Brody was portrayed by Mark Gruner and Dennis Quaid across the first two sequels). As you'll learn, the cast didn't need to worry about any killer sharks with a score to settle. The same cannot be said for giant battery packs capable of electrocuting a grown man.

Author Mark Edlitz interviews Jaws: The Revenge actor Lance Guest in this exclusive excerpt from his new book, Movies Go Fourth:

What’s your go-to, Jaws 4 horror story?

I always say Michael Caine saved my life. And it’s a totally over-dramatic and overblown version of something that could have been disastrous. We were doing a scene in the climax of the movie where my character is afraid that my mom is going to kill herself by confronting the shark by herself. So Michael Caine, Mario Van Peebles, and I are in a dinky little boat and we’re after her. I’m in the back of the boat and they’re in front.  But I weighed about 160 pounds and they’re on the other side of the boat. So what do you think happened? We start to go over and the whole front of the boat is just submerged in the water. The battery pack that’s running the boat was huge, it’s about the size of a chessboard. As the boat goes down, the cameraman throws the camera on the barge, which is about five feet away and somebody catches the camera. Mario jumps overboard and the boat fills with water. So I’m sitting in a bathtub with a toaster. I feel this hand behind me, and I heard Michael scream, “Get the f*** out of the boat.” With one hand, he pulls me out of the boat and onto the board because he didn’t want me to get electrocuted. So that’s my great Jaws: The Revenge story.

[Playing along.] He totally saved your life.

There you go. I have Michael Caine to thank for my life. But like I said, it wasn’t unsafe working conditions or anything like that. It could have been a twelve-volt battery pack and it was covered in plastic, I have no idea why, but it’s just kind of funny.

Part of my impetus for talking about this film is not to pretend that it’s an overlooked masterpiece but rather to understand why smart, thoughtful people who make good movies could make one that goes off the rails a bit.

They’ve made movies based on flimsier premises. I keep going back to the original script because Michael De Guzman concentrated on the relationships between the family. There was blood and gore, but we wanted to make a movie that was about something else. It sort of had a TV movie kind of vibe in its structure and maybe it’s a little sentimental, but he presented it in a believable way. So when that happened, I feel like I kind of saw it coming.

But really what is at the heart of why this movie didn’t do so well is I think they just had a hard time selling the idea that the shark is going to travel all the way down to the ocean to the Bahamas and follow this family. That was just a little too far-fetched.

It wasn’t the same shark from the previous films, those sharks are dead. So what is motivating the revenge?

Right. It’s just a family that has bad luck with white sharks. But in the ‘80s, plenty of films were made on similarly non-substantial premises. But Michael de Guzman was able to weave a story that accommodated the premise, took the emphasis off the shark, and put it into the family. But then they realized if they didn’t get the shark sequences right then the audiences would be disappointed, and the film would be lame. So they concentrated on making sure that the shark stuff was shocking, violent, and scary enough to appeal to the base of the people who go see Jaws movies. But there were a lot of things that had nothing to do with a killer shark that were nice, but they weren’t getting the right amount of attention because they had to prioritize and focus on why people are going to see this movie.

Do you get a little bit of a tickle out of the fact that you were in an infamous film?

At the time it was my worst fear to be in something that was going to fall apart like this. But every actor has that fear. But it didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would. Filmmakers who grew up with The Last Starfighter appreciate it. I would rather be in a cult movie than be a big deal. I would rather be in a movie where people had to find it. It makes it feel special when people discover it.

The cover of Movies Go Fourth: 4th Films in Fantastic Franchises

Movies Go Fourth goes on sale Monday, May 22. Click here to pick up a copy.

Jaws (and its three sequels) are available to purchase via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.