Seemingly resurrected from out of the briny blue depths of the Atlantic Ocean, the infamous fishing boat from director Steven Spielberg's timeless masterpiece will rise again thanks to an inspired collection of Jaws megafans, original members of the Hollywood blockbuster's production, and noted shark conservationists.
The ambitious plan to rebuild Quint's Orca recently launched as a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to craft a working replica to be christened Orca III. This nostalgic project is spearheaded by WGBH editor/colorist David Bigelow, who aims to manifest a metamorphosis for a weathered Nova Scotia-style lobster boat called the Lydia. This duplicate vessel (Orca II was the stunt boat) will be put to sea and utilized as a great white shark research lab and for educational tours on the regional waters of Martha's Vineyard.
Bigelow has a unique relationship with the classic film, as he was an extra in Jaws as a 5-year-old kid while living in nearby Oaks Bluff. His elementary school drama teacher, Lee Fierro, even played the role of the bereaved Mrs. Kintner, mother of Alex Kintner, who was the shark's second human victim while swimming on an inflatable yellow raft.
"I was 5 years old living on Martha’s Vineyard, and the local town ordinance was that you had to take swimming lessons if you were a new kid and hadn’t learned to swim," Bigelow tells SYFY WIRE. "I was taking lessons that spring when Jaws came to town. Universal Studios set up and took over the island in April of that year. My drama teacher, Lee Fierro, who portrayed Mrs. Kintner, let us know she was going to be in Jaws. She asked if I wanted to come down to be in a scene they were shooting. The film set was a mile and a half from where I took my lessons. I was there for the Alex Kintner attack sequence and ended up in a scene playing with a bunch of kids with a football in the foreground when Alex is eaten by the shark and gets pulled underwater in a big pool of blood."
The Lydia was actually bought by Bigelow to use in a planned six-part docudrama project called Making the Monster, chronicling the making of Jaws on the New England island. But with the continued proliferation of sharks in local waters, Bigelow decided the boat would be better suited for conservation, education, and research efforts.
"In the Jaws universe what you hope for is serendipity, just like the original movie," he explains. "I began two years ago to explore making a TV series documenting the creation of Jaws. How this film nearly killed everybody on the crew after six months on the Vineyard, being out on the ocean, and the shark not working. Yet it forged an incredible blockbuster film that everyone thinks was worth the trauma. I started working with Joe Alves, Jaws' production designer, and had a lot of contacts for the actual Jaws crew world through my friends who were big Jaws collectors. I decided I would need a boat, because the Orca would feature heavily into that project. So I purchased the Lydia, a work boat very similar to the Orca. But with the pandemic crisis, everything on Making the Monster came to a screeching halt."
"I wanted to take this boat and give it a whole new goal, which is to be a research expedition vessel for Greg Skomal, who is kind of the Matt Hooper of Cape Cod, who is chomping at the bit to get out on the boat and do tagging of sharks," he added. "And to provide education for kids on Martha’s Vineyard about sharks with whatever research we’re able to acquire. So we’re evolving the mission of the Orca from a shark-hunting and killing machine to an understanding and educational vessel so kids can be safe or at least feel empowered with the education instead of just using movies or TV as a guide to what to believe about them."
Bigelow and his team are trying to raise a minimum of $150,000 via their crowdfunding effort, aptly named “Return of the Orca.” The donated monies will be targeted for materials, rebuilding labor costs, mooring, maintenance, winterization, insurance, and various overhead expenses.
"So we did an Indiegogo campaign and there are some cool perks," he noted. "I made a close connection to Erik Hollander, who was the writer/director of The Shark Is Still Working, one of the greatest making-of Jaws documentaries out there. He’s a really talented artist and his logo was seen on the movie poster for Meg. So he created this logo for Return of the Orca that is just gorgeous. We slapped it on a poster, we put it on t-shirts, we’re throwing it on a hat, and we’re also making a behind-the-scenes DVD about the production process of the Orca III build."
For more info on this seaworthy restoration project to clone the Orca to benefit shark conservation and education, visit their Indiegogo page HERE.