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Academy Museum welcomes ‘Jaws’ star Bruce, the shark

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles has a new resident. “Bruce,” one of the most iconic objects from the museum’s permanent collection—and the only surviving full-scale shark model from the 1975 Oscar-winning film “Jaws”—has been suspended 30 feet above the museum’s third floor where it will be on view, free to the public.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Bruce the shark, Jaws
Photos by Todd Wawrychuk/Academy Museum Foundation

The week-long installation of the 1208-pound model shark was completed on Nov. 20, 2020, and is another exciting step towards the much-anticipated opening of the Academy Museum on Sept. 30, 2021, in the iconic May Co. building on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

The infamous mechanical shark—which Spielberg is rumored to have named “Bruce” after his lawyer—was created by art director Joe Alves, whose original schematics depict the 25-foot-long body, 400-pound head, and jaws nearly 5 feet wide. The museum’s 25-foot model is the fourth, final, and only surviving version of the shark model derived from the original “Jaws” mold. It is also the largest object in the Academy Museum’s collection, which also includes an underwater apparatus and fin used in “Jaws” and “Jaws II.” 

The three screen-used production shark molds were cast in latex and rubber. Those eventually rotted and were destroyed; however, the Academy Museum’s version was cast in fiberglass for photo ops at Universal Studios Hollywood for the film’s 1975 release. Bruce remained at Universal until 1990, when he found his way to a junkyard in Sun Valley, Calif. In 2010, the shark model was authenticated by a member of the original “Jaws” special effects crew, and the Academy Museum acquired it in 2016. Unfortunately, the fiberglass shark had deteriorated from being outdoors for 25 years.

Bruce the Shark, Jaws
Photo by Michael Palma

Thankfully, special effects and make-up artist Greg Nicotero (co-founder of KNB EFX) spent seven months meticulously restoring Bruce for his move to the Academy Museum. Because the shark is so large, a team of art handlers, engineers, and construction workers removed two panels from the Saban Building’s glass wall and used a crane to install Bruce in his dramatic new home suspended 30 feet above the third floor of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Bruce will be visible from many vantage points within the museum and passersby outside on Fairfax Avenue and 6th Street.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Bruce the shark, Jaws

“It’s been a long journey for Bruce since he was acquired in 2016, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him to his new home,” said Bill Kramer, director, and president of the Academy Museum. “We look forward to our opening when museum visitors can engage with our exhibitions, experience our beautiful Renzo Piano-designed building, and come face to face with one of the most iconic characters in film history.”

Click here for more information about The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Installing Bruce the Shark | Academy Museum
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