Benchley being interviewed about Jaws in "A Look Inside Jaws", produced by Laurent Bouzereau.
Peter Bradford Benchley
May 8, 1940
|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 as the author of the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its 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 .
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 advocate for marine conservation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 girl'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 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. It is notable for its size, with larger female individuals growing to 6.1 m (20 ft) in length and 1,905–2,268 kg (4,200–5,000 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).
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 man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers at a 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.
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.
The Deep is a 1977 adventure film based on Peter Benchley's 1976 novel of the same name. It was directed by Peter Yates, and stars Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte.
The giant squid's elusive nature and fearsome appearance have long made it a popular subject of legends and folk tales. Its popularity as an image continues today with references and depictions in literature, film, television, and video games.
Ron Josiah Taylor, AM was a prominent Australian shark expert, as is his widow, Valerie Taylor. Their expertise has been called upon for films such as Jaws, Orca and Sky Pirates.
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.
The brown lanternshark or bristled lanternshark is a little-known species of deep-sea dogfish shark in the family Etmopteridae. It is found off Japan and New Zealand, and possibly also South Africa and Australia, typically deeper than 300 m (980 ft). This species can be distinguished from other lanternsharks by its coloration, which is a uniform dark gray or brown without the ventral surface being much darker and clearly delineated from the rest of the body. The brown lanternshark feeds on small bony fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans. Reproduction is ovoviviparous, with females giving birth to 9–18 young. An unusually high proportion of individuals in Suruga Bay are hermaphrodites, with both male and female characteristics.
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.
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.
Brian Skerry is a photographer and photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine. In 2014 he was named a National Geographic Photography Fellow.
Stanton A. Waterman is a five-time Emmy winning cinematographer and underwater film producer.
Jaws is an American action-adventure-thriller 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.
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.
Winifred "Wendy" Benchley is a marine and environmental conservation advocate and former councilwoman from New Jersey. She is known for co-founding various environmental organizations and for being the wife of author Peter Benchley.