SYDNEY (AP) - Ron Taylor, a beloved Australian marine conservationist who helped film some of the terrifying underwater footage used in the classic shark thriller “Jaws,” has died after a long battle with cancer, a close family friend said Monday. He was 78.
Taylor and his wife, Valerie, spent years filming great white sharks and trying to persuade a wary public that the much-feared creatures were beautiful animals worthy of respect. Their stunning up-close images of sharks drew the attention of “Jaws” director Steven Spielberg, who asked the couple to capture footage of a great white for his 1975 blockbuster.
The Taylors shot much of the now-classic sequence in which the shark tears apart a cage holding one of the main characters.
They filmed off South Australia, using a miniature shark-proof cage with a very short diver inside in an attempt to make the real sharks look as large as the 25-foot mechanical shark used in the movie. While filming, a great white became tangled in the shark cage’s cables and began thrashing violently as it tried to escape.
Fox’s father, Rodney Fox, who famously survived a near-fatal great white shark attack in 1963, assisted on the shoot. Andrew Fox said both men were affected by criticism that the movie reinforced the notion that great whites were death machines. (“It is as if God created the devil and gave him _ JAWS,” the narrator in the film’s theatrical trailer warned in an ominous voice.)
“That’s something that Dad and Ron talked about a lot along with (late Jaws author) Peter Benchley,” Andrew Fox said. “All of them … felt a sense of shame, in a way, that they made so many people terrified of sharks and going in the water.”
But in later years, Fox said, they came to realize that “it’s actually the movie `Jaws’ that spawned people wanting to learn about great whites.”
“Most of the research and interest in that shark has come about since the movie,” Fox said.
Taylor, a Sydney native, had a long love affair with the ocean but started out as a spearfisherman. In the 1950s, he had a change of heart in the midst of a spearfishing competition.
“I just thought, `What am I doing down here killing these poor, defenseless marine creatures?’” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in 2005. “So I just packed up, went home _ didn’t even weigh my fish in _ and never went back to another spearfishing competition.”
He and Valerie went on to shoot several documentaries, including “Shark Hunters” and the TV series “Inner Space,” narrated by William Shatner. In “Operation Shark Bite,” Valerie wears a chain mail suit the couple designed to ward off damage from shark attacks, escaping without injury despite sharks chewing on her arm. (The suit was too small for Ron.)View Entire Story
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
Taking a deeper look at the undeniable connection between mind and body from a writer and speaker on matters of health, and a practitioner of Christian Science.
Entertainment News and Reviews from Washington, D.C. and beyond.
A carefully guided tour through the confusing world of modern bookselling and publishing.
Tea Party blasts IRS
Frederick Douglass statue unveiled
World's Ugliest Dog Contest
Spelling Bee finale
Marines train Afghan soldiers
Rolling Thunder 2013