Restoring The Last Remaining JAWS Shark For The Academy Museum

Restoring Bruce for The Academy Museum

As the quarantine restrictions begin to lift around the world, museums are once again opening their doors to the public. This includes the long-awaited Academy Museum in Los Angeles, scheduled to open September 30, 2021. The uniquely designed structure by architect Renzo Piano (a remodel and addition to the original May Company Building), will house beloved artifacts from the Motion Picture Industry. One will be able to peruse galleries of real props, matte paintings made for backgrounds, original costumes, scripts and more from the greatest movies of all time.

Restoring Bruce for The Academy Museum

Jaws shark before and after
The last remaining shark from JAWS before and after restoration for The Academy Museum

Along with such historical movie icons as Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers and Bela Lugosi’s Vampire Cape, the very last remaining mechanical shark model from Steven Spielberg’s JAWS has been rescued, restored and relocated to hang in the museum.

aerial photo academy museum
The new Academy Museum in Los Angeles (ph: @academymuseum)

Superfans of JAWS already know the sharks from the movie are nicknamed Bruce, after Spielberg’s lawyer Bruce Ramer. And that the rubber, plastic, wood and pneumatic hose sharks were notorious for breaking down on set, increasing delays and the film’s budget.

Robert Shaw in JAWS outtake
Robert Shaw, who played the shark hunter Quint, relaxes on the set with one of the mechanical sharks during the filming of JAWS. photo: Jim Beller

What was left of the three mechanical Great Whites designed by art director Joe Alves and his team for the 1975 summer blockbuster were destroyed when production of the movie wrapped. After the film’s great success, a fourth shark was made from the original mold and proudly displayed at Universal Studios Hollywood as a photo opportunity for visitors for 15 years until, somehow, he wound up at a Sun Valley junkyard.

JAWS Bruce at Universal Studios
A 13-year-old Greg Nicotero (who would end up restoring the shark decades later), second from right, at Universal Studios with the last surviving Bruce. ph: Greg Nicotero
Bruce at a junkyard in Sun Valley, 2016
Bruce at a junkyard in Sun Valley, 2016. photo: Todd Wawrychuk/Courtesy of AMPAS

There he sat, mounted for the next 25 years on two tall, metal poles, in the middle of a small clutch of palm trees. In 2016, when Nathan Adlen decided to close his father’s junkyard, he donated the shark to the forthcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Bruce moving to Academy Museum
Workers “sling” the last remaining shark cast from the original Jaws mold and lift it, by crane, to a nearby crate. After spending more than 25 years at a Los Angeles junkyard, “Bruce” is headed for the museum. photo: Todd Wawrychuk/Courtesy of AMPAS

Damaged by the elements and time, the fiberglass 45-year-old shark named Bruce needed some serious restoration. Enter special effects and makeup artist Greg Nicotero of the KNB EFX Group.

last remaining shark from JAWS
Bruce was in pretty bad shape upon his arrival at the museum. photo: Greg Nictotero

Nicotero, whose credits include “Day of the Dead” and “The Walking Dead,” says he got into the business because of “Jaws” and eagerly volunteered for the task of bringing the shark back to life.

The restoration took Nicotero, his studio, consultant production designer Joe Alves (we wrote about his Designing JAWS book here) several effects technicians and the museums restoration team 7 long months to complete.

Greg Nicotero sculpts a new mouth for Bruce.
Greg Nicotero sculpts a new mouth for Bruce in his studio. photo: Greg Nictotero
bruce progression IIHIH
The shark was even outfitted with original teeth. photos: Greg Nictotero
Academy Museum, Bruce Jaws Shark teeth
Bruce’s restored teeth. photo: Todd Wawrychuk/Courtesy of AMPAS
l-r: Jeffrey Kramer, Greg Nicotero, Bruce the Shark, Roger Baena, author Dennis Prince, Joe Alves and Roy Arbogast with the restored Bruce (photo: Greg Nictotero)

Once inside with fins reattached and a final touching up, Bruce was hooked onto five cables, each of which could hold his weight if any were to fail, and hoisted up on a truss by remote control to get into position in the building’s “spine” where he faces East and is visible from Fairfax.

transporting jaws shark to academy museum
Transporting the restored JAWS shark to the Academy Museum, photo: Todd Wawrychuk/Courtesy of AMPAS
Bruce arrives at the museum
The fiberglass shark weighs 1,208 pounds and measures 25 feet in length photo: Todd Wawrychuk/Courtesy of AMPAS
unwrapping bruce shark
Unwrapping the restored Bruce at the museum, AP photo/ Chris Pizzello
hoisting bruce up
Maneuvering the restored Bruce into place, AP photo/ Chris Pizzello

hoisting the great white shark model

JAWS Shark academy museum

Bruce the shark at the Academy Museum

Bruce JAWS Shark restored

restored bruce jaws shark final
above photos: Todd Wawrychuk/Courtesy of AMPAS


JAWS shark at Academy Museum

fiberglass body, acrylic paint with urethane top-coat, urethane plastic (teeth), acrylic (eyes), steel support (internal structure)
84 3/4″ (H) x 54″ (W) x 288 1/2″ (D)
1208 lbs

At 25 feet long, the 1,208 pound shark is the largest object in the Academy Museum’s collection.

The Academy Museum

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is the world’s most prominent collector of moving image history, having acquired and preserved movie-related materials since the 1930s. In developing its highly immersive exhibitions, the Academy Museum will draw on materials that include approximately 62,000 pieces of production art—such as a Planet of the Apes mask, a model horse head made for The Godfather and the lion’s mane and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz—as well as some 12 million photographs, 55,000 posters, 80,000 screenplays, prints of 80,000 films and tens of thousands of books, periodicals, items of correspondence, scrapbooks and clippings files.

photos and information: Todd Wawrychuck / Courtesy of AMPAS and Greg Nicotero, NPR, Academy Museum