When Steven Spielberg first heard the word, "Jaws," he just thought of a period of his life when he was much younger. He was younger, he was more courageous or he was more stupid. He was not sure which, so when he heard about Jaws, he thought about courage and stupidity, both of those things existing underwater.
There was a very large block of pages stacked about six inches thick that said "Jaws" on it and he didn't know what that meant. What was Jaws? Was it about a dentist, because Jaws was not in the national consciousness at the time? It was just a word. It was an unusual word.
He borrowed a copy to read over the weekend, not knowing that it was a book about a great white shark, a predator off a beach and a Cape Cod-esque town. He had no idea this was about to become one of the best-selling books in the nation.
He read it and he suddenly said to himself, "This is a kind of a sequel to Duel." There was once again about something, a very large predator chasing innocent people and consuming them. At the same time, he thought it was his own fear of the water. He was always been afraid of the water and he got very interested in it and because coincidentally the producers of Jaws had just been his producers of his first feature Sugarland Express, Dick Zanuck and David Brown. He asked them if this was something he could direct next.
Peter Benchley did a very good adaptation of his own novel. Then, Peter turned it over to Steven and said, "Here it is and do with it what you want." At that point, Steven didn't quite know what to do with it because it wasn't the movie he wanted to make next.
He was sitting down and writing the script himself and doing the entire draft himself from beginning to end. It was more of an exercise for him to become familiar with what he wanted Jaws to become. It was an exercise that was very beneficial because he suddenly had a vision of the film even though he didn't possess the skills to write it. David Brown and Dick Zanick both suggested Howard Sackler, who had written The Great White Hope.