Benchley being interviewed about Jaws in "A Look Inside Jaws", produced by Laurent Bouzereau.
Peter Bradford Benchley
May 8, 1940
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 11, 2006 65) (aged|
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
|Occupation||Author, screenwriter and ocean activist|
Winifred "Wendy" Wesson(m. 1964)
|Relatives|| Robert Benchley (grandfather)|
Nat Benchley (brother)
Peter Bradford Benchley (May 8, 1940 – February 11, 2006) was an American author, screenwriter, and ocean activist. He is known for the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its subsequent film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for both cinema and television, including The Deep , The Island , Beast , and White Shark .
Jaws is a 1974 novel by American writer Peter Benchley. It tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town and the voyage of three men trying to kill it. The novel grew out of Benchley's interest in shark attacks after he learned about the exploits of shark fisherman Frank Mundus in 1964. Doubleday commissioned him to write the novel in 1971, a period when Benchley worked as a freelance journalist.
Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel of the same name. In the film, a giant man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers on Amity Island, a fictional New England summer resort town, prompting police chief Martin Brody to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. Murray Hamilton plays the mayor, and Lorraine Gary portrays Brody's wife. The screenplay is credited to Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.
Carl Gottlieb is an American screenwriter, actor, comedian and executive. He is probably best known for co-writing the screenplay for Jaws and its first two sequels, as well as directing the 1981 film Caveman.
Later in life, Benchley came to regret writing such sensationalist literature about sharks, which he felt encouraged excessive fear and unnecessary culls of such an important predator in ocean ecosystems and became an outspoken advocate for marine conservation.
Sharks are a group of elasmobranch fish characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head. Modern sharks are classified within the clade Selachimorpha and are the sister group to the rays. However, the term "shark" has also been used for extinct members of the subclass Elasmobranchii outside the Selachimorpha, such as Cladoselache and Xenacanthus, as well as other Chondrichthyes such as the holocephalid eugenedontidans.
An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one-another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.
Marine conservation, also known as ocean conservation, refers to the study of Marine plants and animal resources and ecosystem functions. It is the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas through planned management in order to prevent the exploitation of these resources. Marine conservation is driven by the manifested negative effects being seen in our environment such as species loss, habitat degradation and changes in ecosystem functions and focuses on limiting human-caused damage to marine ecosystems, restoring damaged marine ecosystems, and preserving vulnerable species and ecosystems of the marine life. Marine conservation is a relatively new discipline which has developed as a response to biological issues such as extinction and marine habitats change.
Benchley was the son of Marjorie (née Bradford) and author Nathaniel Benchley and grandson of Algonquin Round Table founder Robert Benchley. His younger brother, Nat Benchley, is a writer and actor. Peter Benchley was an alumnus of the Allen-Stevenson School, Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University.
Nathaniel Goddard Benchley was an American writer.
The Algonquin Round Table was a group of New York City writers, critics, actors, and wits. Gathering initially as part of a practical joke, members of "The Vicious Circle", as they dubbed themselves, met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel from 1919 until roughly 1929. At these luncheons they engaged in wisecracks, wordplay, and witticisms that, through the newspaper columns of Round Table members, were disseminated across the country.
Robert Charles Benchley was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings at The Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and his acclaimed short films, Benchley's style of humor brought him respect and success during his life, from his peers at the Algonquin Round Table in New York City to contemporaries in the burgeoning film industry.
After graduating from college in 1961, Benchley travelled around the world for a year. The experience was told in his first book, a travel memoir titled Time and a Ticket, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1964. Following his return to America, Benchley spent six months reserve duty in the Marine Corps, and then became a reporter for The Washington Post .While dining at an inn in Nantucket, Benchley met Winifred "Wendy" Wesson, whom he dated and then married the following year, 1964. By then Benchley was in New York, working as television editor for Newsweek . In 1967 he became a speechwriter in the White House for President Lyndon B. Johnson, and saw the birth of his daughter Tracy.
The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. Its slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" began appearing on its masthead in 2017. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
Nantucket is an island about 30 miles (50 km) by ferry south from Cape Cod, in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Together with the small islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it constitutes the Town of Nantucket, and the conterminous Nantucket County. As of the 2010 census, the population was 10,172. Part of the town is designated the Nantucket CDP, or census-designated place. The region of Surfside on Nantucket is the southernmost settlement in Massachusetts.
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine founded in 1933.
Once Johnson's term ended in 1969, the Benchleys moved out of Washington, and lived in various houses, including an island off Stonington, Connecticut where son Clayton was born in 1969. Benchley wanted to be near New York, and the family eventually got a house at Pennington, New Jersey in 1970.Since his home had no space for an office, Benchley rented a room above a furnace supply company.
The town of Stonington is located in New London County, Connecticut in the state's southeastern corner. It includes the borough of Stonington, the villages of Pawcatuck, Lords Point, and Wequetequock, and the eastern halves of the villages of Mystic and Old Mystic. The population of the town was 18,545 at the 2010 census.
Pennington is a borough in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 2,585, reflecting a decline of 111 (-4.1%) from the 2,696 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 159 (+6.3%) from the 2,537 counted in the 1990 Census.
By 1971, Benchley was doing various freelance jobs in his struggle to support his wife and children. During this period, when Benchley would later declare he was "making one final attempt to stay alive as a writer", his literary agent arranged meetings with publishers. Benchley would frequently pitch two ideas, a non-fiction book about pirates, and a novel depicting a man-eating shark terrorizing a community. This idea had been developed by Benchley since he had read a news report of a fisherman catching a 4,550 pounds (2,060 kg) great white shark off the coast of Long Island in 1964. The shark novel eventually attracted Doubleday editor Thomas Congdon, who offered Benchley an advance of $1,000 leading to the novelist submitting the first 100 pages. Much of the work had to be rewritten as the publisher was not happy with the initial tone. Benchley worked by winter in his Pennington office, and in the summer in a converted chicken coop in the Wessons' farm in Stonington. The idea was inspired by the several great white sharks caught in the 1960s off Long Island and Block Island by the Montauk charterboat captain Frank Mundus.
The great white shark, also known as the great white, white shark or white pointer, is a species of large mackerel shark which can be found in the coastal surface waters of all the major oceans. The great white shark is notable for its size, with larger female individuals growing to 6.1 m (20 ft) in length and 1,905 kg (4,200 lb) in weight at maturity. However, most are smaller; males measure 3.4 to 4.0 m, and females measure 4.6 to 4.9 m on average. According to a 2014 study, the lifespan of great white sharks is estimated to be as long as 70 years or more, well above previous estimates, making it one of the longest lived cartilaginous fish currently known. According to the same study, male great white sharks take 26 years to reach sexual maturity, while the females take 33 years to be ready to produce offspring. Great white sharks can swim at speeds of over 56 km/h (35 mph), and can swim to depths of 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
Long Island is a densely populated island off the East Coast of the United States, beginning at New York Harbor approximately 0.35 miles (0.56 km) from Manhattan Island and extending eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. The island comprises four counties in the U.S. state of New York. Kings and Queens Counties and Nassau County share the western third of the island, while Suffolk County occupies the eastern two-thirds. More than half of New York City's residents now live on Long Island, in Brooklyn and Queens. However, many people in the New York metropolitan area colloquially use the term Long Island to refer exclusively to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which are mainly suburban in character, conversely employing the term the City to mean Manhattan alone.
Doubleday is an American publishing company. It was founded as the Doubleday & McClure Company in 1897 and was the largest in the United States by 1947. It published the work of mostly U.S. authors under a number of imprints and distributed them through its own stores. In 2009 Doubleday merged with Knopf Publishing Group to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is now part of Penguin Random House. In 2019 the official website presents Doubleday as an imprint, not a publisher.
Jaws was published in 1974 and became a great success, staying on the bestseller list for 44 weeks. Steven Spielberg, who would direct the film version of Jaws, has said that he initially found many of the characters unsympathetic and wanted the shark to win.Book critics such as Michael A. Rogers of Rolling Stone shared the sentiment but the book struck a chord with readers.
Benchley co-wrote the screenplay with Carl Gottlieb (along with the uncredited Howard Sackler and John Milius, who provided the first draft of a monologue about the USS Indianapolis) for the Spielberg film released in 1975. Benchley made a cameo appearance as a news reporter on the beach. The film, starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, was released in the summer season, traditionally considered to be the graveyard season for films. However, Universal Studios decided to break tradition by releasing the film with extensive television advertising. It eventually grossed over $470 million worldwide. George Lucas used a similar strategy in 1977 for Star Wars which broke the box office records set by Jaws, and hence the summer blockbuster was born.
Benchley estimated that he earned enough from book sales, film rights and magazine/book club syndication to be able to work independently as a film writer for ten years.
His second novel, The Deep, is about a honeymooning couple discovering two sunken treasures on the Bermuda reefs — 17th century Spanish gold and a fortune in World War II-era morphine — who are subsequently targeted by a drug syndicate. This 1976 novel is based on Benchley's chance meeting in Bermuda with diver Teddy Tucker while writing a story for National Geographic . Benchley co-wrote the screenplay for the 1977 film release, along with Tracy Keenan Wynn and an uncredited Tom Mankiewicz. Directed by Peter Yates and starring Robert Shaw, Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset, The Deep was a box office success, and one of the top 10 highest-grossing films in the US in 1977, though its box office tally fell well short of Jaws .
The Island, published in 1979, was a story of descendants of 17th-century pirates who terrorize pleasure craft in the Caribbean, leading to the Bermuda Triangle mystery. Benchley again wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. But the film version of The Island , starring Michael Caine and co-starring David Warner, failed at the box office when released in 1980.
During the 1980s, Benchley wrote three novels that did not sell as well as his previous works. However, Girl of the Sea of Cortez, a fable influenced by John Steinbeck about man's complicated relationship with the sea, was his best-reviewed book and has attracted a considerable cult following since its publication.[ citation needed ]Sea of Cortez signposted Benchley's growing interest in ecological issues and anticipated his future role as an impassioned advocate of the importance of protecting the marine environment. Q Clearance, published in 1986, was written from his experience as a staffer in the Johnson White House. Rummies (also known as Lush), which appeared in 1989, is a semi-autobiographical work, loosely inspired by the Benchley family's history of alcohol abuse. While the first half of the novel is a relatively straightforward account of a suburbanite's descent into alcoholic hell, the second part, which takes place at a New Mexico substance abuse clinic, is written as a thriller.
He returned to nautical themes in 1991's Beast written about a giant squid threatening Bermuda. Beast was brought to the small screen as a made-for-television film in 1996, under the title The Beast . His next novel, White Shark , was published in 1994. The story of a Nazi-created genetically engineered shark/human hybrid, it failed to achieve popular or critical success. It was also turned into a made-for-television film titled Creature, with Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times saying it "looks more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than any fish".Also in 1994, Benchley became the first person to host Discovery Channel's Shark Week.
In 1999, the television show Peter Benchley's Amazon was created, about a group of plane crash survivors in the middle of a vast jungle.
In the last decade of his career, Benchley wrote non-fiction works about the sea and about sharks advocating their conservation. Among these was his book entitled Shark Trouble,which illustrated how hype and news sensationalism can help undermine the public's need to understand marine ecosystems and the potential negative consequences as humans interact with it. This work, which had editions in 2001 and 2003, was written to help a post-Jaws public to more fully understand "the sea in all its beauty, mystery and power." It details the ways in which man seems to have become more of an aggressor in his relationship with sharks, acting out of ignorance and greed as several of the species become increasingly threatened by overfishing.
Benchley was a member of the National Council of Environmental Defense and a spokesman for its Oceans Program: "[T]he shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim; for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors."
He was also one of the founding board members of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI).
Benchley died of pulmonary fibrosis in 2006.
In light of Peter Benchley's lifelong record of shark conservation and educating the public about sharks, the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards have been instituted by Wendy Benchley and David Helvarg as his legacy.
In 2015 researchers confirmed a new species of lanternshark had been found off the Pacific coast of South America, naming it Etmopterus benchleyi . Lead researcher Vicki Vásquez noted the author's work in promoting ocean conservation, particularly sharks, as motivation.
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The oceanic whitetip shark, also known as Brown Milbert's sand bar shark, brown shark, lesser white shark, nigano shark, oceanic white-tipped whaler, and silvertip shark, is a large pelagic requiem shark inhabiting tropical and warm temperate seas. Its stocky body is most notable for its long, white-tipped, rounded fins.
Jaws: The Revenge is a 1987 American horror thriller film produced and directed by Joseph Sargent, and starring Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, and Michael Caine. It is the third sequel to Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and the fourth and final installment in the Jaws franchise. It was the final theatrical film to be directed by Sargent.
The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 were a series of shark attacks along the coast of New Jersey, in the United States, between July 1 and 12, 1916, in which four people were killed and one injured. Since 1916, scholars have debated which shark species was responsible and the number of animals involved, with the great white shark and the bull shark most frequently cited. The incidents occurred during a deadly summer heat wave and polio epidemic in the United States that drove thousands of people to the seaside resorts of the Jersey Shore.
The Deep is a 1977 adventure film based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. It was directed by Peter Yates, and stars Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte.
Fabien Cousteau is an aquanaut, ocean conservationist, and documentary filmmaker. As the first grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Fabien spent his early years aboard his grandfather's ships Calypso and Alcyone; learning how to scuba dive on his fourth birthday. From 2000–2002, Fabien was an Explorer-at-Large for National Geographic and collaborated on a TV special aimed at changing public conceptions about sharks called "Attack of the Mystery Shark". Then in 2003–2006, he produced the documentary "Mind of a Demon" that aired on CBS. With the help of a large crew, Fabien created a 14-foot, 1,200-pound, lifelike shark submarine called "Troy" that enabled him to immerse himself inside the shark world.
The Beast is a 1996 television movie starring William Petersen, Karen Sillas and Charles Martin Smith. Aired in two parts as a miniseries, the movie is based on the 1991 novel Beast by Jaws author Peter Benchley. The film is about a giant squid that attacks and kills several people when its food supply becomes scarce and its offspring is killed.
The smooth lanternshark or slender lanternshark is a species of dogfish shark in the family Etmopteridae, found widely in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It inhabits benthic environments at a depth of 274–1,000 m (899–3,281 ft), and pelagic environments at a depth of 0–708 m (0–2,323 ft). The smooth lanternshark forms a species group with the larger blurred lanternshark, both of which are distinguished from other members of their family by small, irregularly arranged dermal denticles with a truncated shape. This species has a slender, dark brown body with an indistinct black band on the sides over the pelvic fins, and reaches 50 cm (20 in) in length. This slow-growing, ovoviviparous shark feeds on smaller squid, fishes, and fish eggs. Smooth lanternsharks are often caught as bycatch in eastern Atlantic and Japanese commercial fisheries. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has evaluated this species as of Least Concern because of its wide distribution and limited threats.
Frank Mundus was a sport fisherman in Montauk, New York who is said to be the inspiration for the character Quint in the movie and book Jaws. Up until his death, he chartered out his boat Cricket II for those seeking the thrill of big game fishing.
The Shark is Still Working is a feature-length documentary film on the impact and legacy of the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster film Jaws. It features interviews with a range of cast and crew from the film. It is narrated by Roy Scheider and dedicated to Peter Benchley.
Stanton A. Waterman is a five-time Emmy winning cinematographer and underwater film producer.
Jaws is an American natural horror film series that started with a 1975 film that expanded into three sequels, a theme park ride, and other tie-in merchandise, based on a 1974 novel. The main subject of the saga is a great white shark, and its attacks on people in specific areas of the United States. The Brody family is featured in all of the films as the primary antithesis to the shark. The original film was based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, which itself was inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. Benchley adapted his novel, along with help from Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler, into the 1975 film Jaws, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Although Gottlieb went on to pen two of the three sequels, neither Benchley nor Spielberg returned to the film series in any capacity.
Thomas Boss Congdon Jr. was an American book editor who worked on Russell Baker's memoir Growing Up, Peter Benchley's bestselling novel Jaws, and David Halberstam's 1986 work The Reckoning, ultimately establishing his own publishing house.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sharks:
Blood in the Water is a television film that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2009. It was directed by Richard Bedser. It is based on a true-life series of shark attacks that became the inspiration for Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. It was the season premiere of Shark Week on August 2 for the 2009 season.
White Shark is a 1994 novel by author Peter Benchley, famous for Jaws, The Island, Beast and The Deep. It is similar to Jaws, but it does not feature a shark, despite what the title suggests. To avoid confusion and to capitalize on the movie adaptation, the book was republished as Creature in 1997.
Representations of the shark are common in popular culture in the Western world, with a range of media generally portraying them of eating machines and threats. In some media, however, comedy is drawn from portrayals of sharks running counter to their popular image, with shark characters being portrayed as unexpectedly friendly or otherwise comical.
Bite-Back is a UK-based charity dedicated to shark and marine conservation which believes that over-fishing, coupled with the over-consumption of wild fish, are the two biggest threats facing the marine world. Through its work of defending the high seas on the high street it seeks to educate people about the issues facing the only truly wild items stocked by supermarkets and to empower its supporters to help change the way fish is consumed. The charity's goal is to encourage retailers to put conservation before commerce.
The Ninja lanternshark is a lanternshark of the family Etmopteridae found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Nicaragua, south to Panama and Costa Rica. The depth range of collections is from 836–1443m along the continental slope. E. benchleyi is the only Etmopterus species presently known from the Pacific coast of Central America.