Les Dents de la mer: the little story behind the most famous cinema poster -…

While “Les Dents de la mer” by Steven Spielberg is broadcast tonight on France 5, (re) discover how the famous poster of the film was created.

Blue and crystalline water. A completely naked swimmer. The terrible jaws of a gigantic shark. A title red as blood.

The Teeth of the Sea poster, inspired by the cover of Peter Benchley’s original novel, is arguably the most famous in movie history. While Steven Spielberg’s film is broadcast tonight on France 5, (re) discover how it came into being, and what artist is behind it.

We are in 1974. Passionate about the seabed and their dangers, a young freelance journalist named Peter Benchley is about to publish his first novel: the story of a small American seaside resort whose tranquility is suddenly threatened by a huge shark.

Partly inspired by the shark attacks that had taken place in New Jersey in 1916, Benchley’s book is already promising spectacular sales, and is even starting to interest Hollywood studios.

Without suspecting that Les Dents de la Mer is on the verge of becoming the greatest success in the history of cinema, Benchley’s publishing house nevertheless foresees a triumph in the bookstore, and therefore seeks an artist capable of making a cover. impactful enough for the book, as the excellent article by Collectors Weekly.

Les dents de la mer: the little story behind the most famous cinema poster -...
Universal Pictures

After a first draft representing the small seaside resort between the jaws of the monster, then a second black and white essay on which we can already see the premises of the poster that we know (that is to say the bather of the first chapter, threatened by the shark), the work is entrusted to Roger Kastel, an American artist who will also distinguish himself in 1980 with the poster of The Empire strikes back.Les dents de la mer: the little story behind the most famous cinema poster -...

[L’éditeur] wanted me to read the book to choose a new passage to illustrate “, says Kastel in the article by Collectors Weekly. “But, of course, the best part was the introduction, when Chrissie goes swimming naked in the water.[ils] gave me was to make the shark bigger, and very realistic. “

To do this, always according to Collectors Weekly, Kastel decides to go prospecting in the aisles of the Museum of Natural History in New York, where sharks are in the spotlight at that time. Stuffed, installed on trays, the large sharks are therefore photographed by the illustrator, who now has enough to give life to the formidable creature of his blanket: “The shark in my painting was developed from there”, he explains. “I just tried to paint a shark that looked fierce, but still realistic.”

Les dents de la mer: the little story behind the most famous cinema poster -...
Universal Pictures

The rest, we know it. With a planetary triumph in bookstores, Jaws and its mythical cover take the road to the dark rooms under the leadership of Steven Spielberg, a young filmmaker who is about to see his career totally turned upside down by the success of the film. Simply fleshed out with a bright red title and a little foam to cover the swimmer’s chest, Kastel’s work can therefore be found on the windows of all cinemas in the summer of 1975.

The only shadow (a little mysterious) to this pretty painting: Kastel’s original painting totally disappeared after being sent to Hollywood for the film’s release. As the artist reveals in an article in New York Post, no one knows if it was stolen or thrown away.

Anyway, and wherever it is today, the first poster of the Dents de la Mer has undoubtedly made its mark on the collective imagination of millions of spectators.

(Re) discover the blunders and mistakes of the “Dents de la Mer” …

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