“Jaws” star Roy Scheider has been brought back from the dead — at least on screen, after new technology allowed the film he was making when he passed away 14 years ago to finally be finished.
The Oscar nominee was hoping that the film “Beautiful Blue Eyes,” which hits theaters today, would be the one to finally win him an Academy Award.
In 2007, Scheider took on the role of a Holocaust survivor who plots revenge on the Nazi who killed his family. He spent two months living in Poland while working on the movie.
The last day of filming was meant to be a four-hour shoot and then Scheider had a flight booked to take him home to America. But the production had moved to Germany and a problem at the border between the two countries meant the actor arrived late to the set, leaving only 45 minutes of filming time for a pivotal scene.
It was after Scheider had left that director Joshua Newton realized that the camera hadn’t worked properly.
“The film was streaked with lines and we had to do it again,” Newton told The Post. “There was an issue with one of the sensors on the camera and it was unusable.”
Scheider was already on the plane but agreed to redo the scene later. Before he had time to fly back to Germany, however, the actor had an accident at home which triggered his cancer multiple myeloma, which had been in remission.
“No one realized how ill Roy was, but we knew he wasn’t well enough to travel so we planned to move the set to him in America,” Newton recalled. “The scene was mainly based around a truck, which we were transporting over. Roy seemed in good spirits and one of the things we talked about was his wish that the film should be called ‘Beautiful Blue Eyes’ — originally it was mean to be called ‘Iron Cross.’
“But almost at the moment that the truck arrived in America, we heard the dreadful news that Roy had died. It was devastating because he was such a special man and we had a particular bond,” the director added. “My father also, by coincidence, had multiple myeloma and, at one point, during filming Roy told me he had a feeling that I needed to go home and see my dad. I took his advice and a few days later my dad died. We just had this connection.”
Scheider died on Feb. 10, 2008, at age 75.
Newton was desperate to get the film out as a tribute to Roy — but after trying an edit without it, he felt it could not be complete without the scene.
So the director turned to technology.
“Steven Spielberg had this ‘death mask’ — a prosthetic mask of Roy’s face which was used in the series ‘SeaQuest DSV’ and he loaned that to us,” Newton said. “It was scanned by a company in San Diego to create a 3D model of Roy, but the problem was it didn’t look realistic enough.
He then went to George Lucas’s SFX company for help, “but they wanted $3 million so I scrapped that.
“The next idea was to use the prosthetic to make a silicone mask which we could use on another actor. But it just didn’t work,” Newton said. “The actor didn’t have the essence of Roy. It was soulless.”
It was only during the pandemic lockdown — 15 years after the movie was mostly done and 14 years after Scheider’s death — that Newton discovered the fix he needed.
“The AI technology was now finally available to restore the damage,” he said. “It not only got rid of the streaks like an eraser, but I used it across the film and it now looks like a brand-new movie. It is like magic.”
The film is a passion project for Newton, as it is partly based on his own father’s life story. While he always knew that both his parents were Holocaust survivors, it was only when he was 81 that the director’s father, Bruno — who had travelled to England on the Kindertransport — told the story of how his parents and little sister were murdered by the Nazis.
“It got me thinking about the idea of revenge because there was such anger, such bitterness, in what he told me, despite all the years,” Newton recalled. “And I thought [about] what would happen if a Holocaust survivor was to take the law into his own hands and how he might get a member of his family to help him. It is a vengeance story which takes into the impact the Holocaust has on the second generation.”
In the movie Scheider plays a retired NYPD officer who travels to see his son, now living in Germany — only to find out that the man who lives next door is the Nazi who murdered his family.
Newton is thrilled that the actor’s fans — and family — will finally get to see his last film.
“He put so much effort into this film, and I am pleased that we can finally honor him by showing it properly in all of its glory,” the director said. “There is no actor who was quite like Roy, who merged that gravitas with the coolness. He was brilliant at exploring the emotional pain that the character suffered. I miss him. I think people will connect with the
story and I hope that they think we’ve done Roy proud.”