SYDNEY (AP) — Ron Taylor, a beloved Australian marine conservationist who helped film some of the terrifying underwater footage used in the classic shark thriller "Jaws," has died after a long battle with cancer, a close family friend said Monday. He was 78.
Taylor, who had suffered from leukemia for two years, died on Sunday at a hospital in Sydney, said Andrew Fox, who worked with Taylor on shark conservation efforts for decades.
Fox said Taylor had mixed feelings about his work on "Jaws," which terrified beachgoers but ultimately helped draw attention to the intimidating yet often threatened animals.
Taylor and his wife, Valerie, spent years filming great white sharks and trying to persuade a wary public that the much-feared creatures were beautiful animals worthy of respect. Their stunning up-close images of sharks drew the attention of "Jaws" director Steven Spielberg, who asked the couple to capture footage of a great white for his 1975 blockbuster.
The Taylors shot much of the now-classic sequence in which the shark tears apart a cage holding one of the main characters.
They filmed off South Australia, using a miniature shark-proof cage with a very short diver inside in an attempt to make the real sharks look as large as the 25-foot mechanical shark used in the movie. While filming, a great white became tangled in the shark cage's cables and began thrashing violently as it tried to escape.
Fox's father, Rodney Fox, who famously survived a near-fatal great white shark attack in 1963, assisted on the shoot. Andrew Fox said both men were affected by criticism that the movie reinforced the notion that great whites were death machines. ("It is as if God created the devil and gave him — JAWS," the narrator in the film's theatrical trailer warned in an ominous voice.)