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There were, in fact, three of Matley's mechanical marvels, collectively christened Bruce. Each was made largely of plastic, weighed 1½ tons and cost about $150,000. Although built for different purposesone for left-to-right movements, another for right-to-left movements, a third for underwater sceneseach was similarly operated by hydraulic pistons and compressed air. "There were no polluting fuels used," said Mattey, in a gesture to the ecology. He and 20 assistants finished assembling the Bruces while Spielberg completed all the sequences that called for dry land.
Bruce was fairly programmed for mishap. In order to use him, a twelve-ton steel platform, to which the mechanical shark was attached by a 100-ft.-long umbilical cable, had to be sunk to the ocean floor. The controls on the platform were operated by 13 technicians wearing scuba equipment.
Bruce sank when he made his debut. During his second test on water his hydraulic system exploded. "That shark," says Producer Brown, "was like owning a yacht. We had to dredge a place for it to rest, we had to park it, guard it, stroke it, hide it from the public." A special makeup man in scuba gear would plunge into the ocean to add more blood to Bruce's teeth and gums or administer a touch-up to his tender plastic tissue. Bruce's skin tended to discolor and deteriorate in the salt water.
When Bruce finally revved up with enough style and conviction to shoot a short scene, the results were not initially impressive. Director Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise), a buddy of Spielberg's, visited the Vineyard and saw the director trudging out from watching Bruce's first rushes. "It was like a wake," recalls De Palma. "Bruce's eyes crossed, and his jaws wouldn't close right." There was a long moment of hopeless silence, broken finally by Richard Dreyfuss. "If any of us had any sense," he said, "we'd all bail out now."
Everybody stayed. Mattey and his assistants made adjustments. Each day, a flotilla of small craft from the company would set out to sea. Bruce required a whole vessel to himself and another for the men who handled his controls. There were additional boats for the camera crew and the actors, supply boats, an old ferry from Chappaquiddick. They made the journey six days a week, through the summer and into autumn. Some days they would come back with no film at all. The daily departure began to look like a cortege.
"The ocean," Spielberg says, "was a real pain in the ass." While the technical crew scurried about under water, the director and his company waited out the vagaries of tide topside. "With all the planning we did," Spielberg recalls, "nobody thought much about the currents or anything at all about the waves." A strong current would cause equipment boats to drift away. Water color would change, the rhythm of the waves would fluctuate. "I could have shot the movie in the tank," Spielberg says, "or even in a protected lake somewhere, but it would not have looked the same."