In this instalment of Unseen Hollywood, producer Matty Simmons reflects on the National Lampoon's Vacation movie that never was, and the now legendary John Hughes-scripted Jaws 3-People 0.
For decades, the unproduced Jaws 3-People 0 has been a subject of fascination for film fans. Not only would it have been directed by a beloved cult figure and written by one of the sharpest voices produced by National Lampoon, the sequel-cum-parody would've also taken a 'serious' franchise and turned it on its head, taking a satirical swipe at monster movies and the broader studio system. We caught up with Lampoon producer Matty Simmons to learn more about the never-made sequel, and the one 'Vacation' movie he could never get off the ground'.
What you can recall about Winter Vacation?
“‘Winter Vacation’ was an idea I had. I wrote an outline. I gave it to Warner Brothers; my office was at Warner Brothers. Months later (they never got back to me) I got back to them and they said, ‘uh well we decided that we’re not going to go with it.’ Then I got another idea and it was Christmas Vacation, which had been a story in the Lampoon, and they said O.K lets do that. I can’t explain the thinking of studio executives most of them don’t know what the hell they’re doing.
After that I did Vegas Vacation, which I didn’t want to do (I wanted to do winter vacation again). They wanted to do Vegas and it turns out the two heads of the studio were very friendly with Steve Wynn (American Real Estate Businessman & Billionaire) in Vegas and in my opinion, it’s just my opinion, that’s why we did Vegas. I felt that Vegas had been overdone in movies and I wanted to go elsewhere. But Bob Daley (Robert ‘Bob’ Daley – American Exec whose resume includes head of CBS, Warner Bros., Warner Music Group and the L.A Dodgers) said to me, ‘no we should do something that has pizzazz – Vegas has pizzazz.’ Winter’s a much better story – but he didn’t agree with me.
How real was Jaws 3, People 0?
I was having lunch at The Friars Club in New York with David Brown - who produced with Dick [Richard D.] Zanuck Jaws - and David is an old friend of mine. We’re both out of the magazine business. And he said to me ‘God, Dick and I would love to make a movie with you guys (The National Lampoon).’ And I said, I got it National Lampoon’s Jaws 3 People 0. And I was kidding, and he looked at me and he said, ‘that’s hilarious.’ And then I proceeded for the next five minutes to tell him the story which I’m making up as I go along and I’m kidding.
After he tells me … the Head of Universal loves the idea too I run back to my office and I call my secretary and I dictate the story because I don’t wanna forget it. Then they call me the next day. David (Brown) says they green-lighted the movie already. He said just get the script. So I walk into the editorial office and there are two editors standing there, and those are the guys I was looking for. You two guys are writing our next movie and one of the guys was Tod Carroll (writer of Clean and Sober) who went on to write a couple of other movies and the other guy was a guy named John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) - probably the most successful director of comedy in the history of motion pictures. Anyway, they took my story and they wrote the script. I hired Joe Dante (Director who went on to make Gremlins, InnerSpace, The Howling) who was a young director and I started casting the movie. I hired a young girl whose next movie was about to come out; and she was the most incredibly beautiful [woman] and she was bared-breasted in that movie and that’s what I wanted in this movie too. And her name was Bo Derek. And that was the movie.
We’re in pre-production and we’ve spent $3 million dollars when I get a call from the president of universal saying ‘I gotta see you.’ So I go up to his office and believe me when I tell you there was a tear in his eye. So I thought something’s wrong. He says I gotta pull the plug on the movie. I said ‘what are you crazy!? We’re shooting in three weeks.’ Now I had a contract with universal and I said I quit I broke my contact and David Brown and Dick [Richard D.] Zanuck broke their contracts with Universal – they went on to make movies like Driving Miss Daisy, Cocoon, I went on to make the Vacation pictures after that. But I have to agree with them. When I found out two years later that [Steven] Spielberg said that if you make this movie I’m walking – he felt that the movie ridiculed him. In the first scene the director is at his house and jumps into his pool and there’s a shark. As the movie goes on, the director who continues to appear is bitten by sharks. He loses a finger then a toe and so forth – all in good fun.
Who did you have cast as the director?
I don’t remember, it wasn’t one of the major roles. I do know that (Richard) Dreyfus, and a young actor named Rodger Bumpass was gonna play the lead. It was his first movie role but he had been in two of my shows and he was enormously talented. And for years now he’s been the voice on SpongeBob SquarePants [he voices Squidward]– so that’s the story of Jaws 3 People 0.
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