Why this guy is giving up his prized shark from ‘Jaws’

For the past quarter-century or so, the final remaining copy of the shark in “Jaws” has resided in an auto wrecking yard in Sun Valley, California. News broke yesterday that he”s moving on to a new home. Owner of the junkyard, Nathan Adlen, is donating the shark to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” museum.

Now this shark model didn”t appear in the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster (which, by the way, made it to the top 10 of HitFix“s Ultimate Horror Poll). But this shark survives as an important piece of cinema history since the three animatronic sharks used in the film have been destroyed. This fourth shark was cast from the same mold as the other three. (Joe Alves and Roy Arbogast, who designed and crafted the shark, confirmed that this junkyard shark is indeed the genuine fourth Bruce when they visited him for an NPR story in 2010.)

Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking became home to Bruce in 1989 or 1990, as Adlen recalls, after his father made a regular trip to Universal Pictures to pick up vehicles the studio no longer wanted. Mixed in with the cars on this visit was the shark model. Though shark #4 didn”t make it into the movie, it had hung at the Universal theme park by its tail for years.

“It was kind of dilapidated,” Adlen told HitFix. “Somebody had or a group of people had taken the teeth out of it at that point in time. To [Universal] it was basically an eye-sore.”

After he brought Bruce home, Adlen”s father planted some palm trees at the 26-acre wrecking yard to create a special spot for the shark. “He created an oasis for this shark,” Adlen said. And over the years, it”s attracted a lot of “Jaws” fans looking for a photo op and a lot of people offering to pay big bucks for the piece of movie memorabilia.

“It”s sort of our mascot,” Adlen explained. “It put us on the map.”

Photo credit: Nathan Adlen

The Academy reached out to the junkyard owner “years and years ago, and I wasn”t ready” to part with it, he said. Now he”s closing the auto wrecking yard and has decided to finally give up Bruce, since he won”t fit at his other wrecking yard, a four-acre one near the Huntington Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

So why did Adlen decide Bruce belongs in a museum? And not in an auction where he can make some good money off of it (which he did consider)?

“I grew up around the old May Company building, which is where the shark”s gonna be housed, and other family members have grown up in that area, so I thought it was a great place to be for eternity,” Adlen told HitFix.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The shark model, at 25 feet long, is largest object committed to the Academy museum so far. That museum will open in 2018 in the expanded and renovated historic May Company building.

Adlen expects the Bruce”s goodbye to be “a very sad going away party,” but he has a few plans to try to make it a fun celebration, including this:

“Sushi will definitely be on the menu.”