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Only Surviving ‘Jaws’ Shark Prop Acquired by Academy Museum

A woman walks past a small sculpture at JawsFest: The Tribute, a festival celebrating the film Jaws, on the island of Martha's Vineyard. where the film was primarily shot in. (Thinkstock: Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images).
A woman walks past a small sculpture at JawsFest: The Tribute, a festival celebrating the film Jaws, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. where the film was primarily shot in. (Thinkstock: Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images).

The Academy Museum announced today that it has acquired the sole surviving full-scale model of “Bruce,” the killer great white shark from “Jaws.”

Created for display at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1975 for the Steven Spielberg thriller’s release, the Fiberglas prop is the fourth and final version made from the original mold.

It remained a popular backdrop for photos at the theme park until 1990, when it was moved to the yard of Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, the recently closed Sun Valley junkyard.

“Jaws was the original summer blockbuster — a movie that marked a turning point in culture and society — and Bruce is the only surviving version of its unforgettable central prop,” Museum Director Kerry Brougher said. “This extraordinary addition to our collection … is a major contribution to the resources we will use to illuminate film history and enhance the public’s understanding of the arts and sciences of motion pictures.”

The creation of the film’s mechanical shark — which Spielberg named Bruce after his lawyer — was undertaken by art director Joe Alves, who designed a prop with a 25-foot long body, 400-pound head and jaws nearly five feet wide.

The prop famously malfunctioned frequently during production, resulting in Spielberg trimming the shark’s screen time.

The mold yielded three latex and rubber casts that were used in production. Following the film’s release, the three rubber casts deteriorated and were discarded. But the fourth cast, made of Fiberglas for promotional use, has survived. In 2010, it was authenticated by a member of the film’s special effects crew.

The prop was donated to the Academy Museum by Nathan Adlen, owner of Aadlen Brothers — which was spelled with two A’s, so it would appear higher in phone books.

“I am delighted to be part of the new Academy Museum through the gift of this beloved American icon,” Adlen, 60, said. “Bruce caught the eye of my father, Sam Adlen, at first glance back in 1990, and for many years he’s been like a member of the family.”

The $300 million project by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the group behind the Oscars — is expected to open on Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row in spring 2018.

Its holdings include a “Planet of the Apes” mask, a model horse head made for “The Godfather,” the lion’s mane and ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” and a fin used in “Jaws” and “Jaws II” — as well as tens of thousands of photographs, posters, screenplays, and other film memorabilia.

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