Son of 'Jaws' Star Robert Shaw on 'Release' of Playing His Dad in 'The Shark Is Broken' (Exclusive)

"It's about love, I think," Ian Shaw tells PEOPLE of his Broadway play, which depicts behind-the-scenes drama during the filming of 'Jaws'

<p>Oliver Rosser; Everett Collection</p>

Oliver Rosser; Everett Collection

Actor Ian Shaw takes on a major role in a new Broadway production — his own father.

Ian, 53, is the son of the late Jaws actor Robert Shaw, who played the shark hunter Quint in Steven Spielberg's iconic 1975 blockbuster. More than four decades after Jaws first scared moviegoers out of the water, Ian takes to the Broadway stage, starring in a play he also cowrote as his own father. The Shark Is Broken peels back the curtain on how Jaws actors Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and the elder Shaw may have passed the time aboard Jaws's iconic ship The Orca.

"I'd spent my whole life trying to avoid association with my dad. He was a very successful film star, but I wanted to be an actor in my own rights," Ian tells PEOPLE of his decision to create the play, which he cowrote with Joseph Nixon. "And I thought, as you do as children of these successful people, it's in poor taste if you cash in on their success — you want to do your own thing."

Robert died in 1978 at age 51, before Ian was 10 years old. The actor and writer says grieving his father is "behind me" and notes that he "felt like it was quite a release taking a fresh perspective on this, having the bravery to play him."

"Although it was with a lot of help [from] my friends and family, I still felt it was an enormous risk and that it would carry potential backlash of possible shame on my family because I didn't want to put [him] on a pedestal," Ian says. "But equally, I didn't want to throw him under a bus either. So the tone made me feel very nervous.”

Related: Steven Spielberg Says He Regrets How 'Jaws' Caused 'Decimation of the Shark Population'

<p>Courtesy Ian Shaw</p>

Courtesy Ian Shaw

Ian has been performing as his father in The Shark Is Broken since the production premiered in Scotland at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The actor was only five years old when Jaws was filmed; he recalls being "more interested in building sandcastles than hanging around on the set."

"I do remember meeting Steven Spielberg actually, and he was nice. I remember thinking that he was too young to be telling my dad what to do," Ian recalls.

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<p>Courtesy Ian Shaw</p>

Courtesy Ian Shaw

Spielberg himself is not present onstage in The Shark Is Broken. The play largely takes place while the three actors — Dreyfuss, now 75, is portrayed on Broadway by Alex Brightman, and Colin Donnell plays the late Roy Scheider — are waiting for Jaws's famous mechanical sharks to be repaired so they can shoot their scenes aboard The Orca.

The Shark Is Broken depicts the actors' fears that Jaws would turn out to be a dud, as well as a personal grudge that develops between the elder Shaw and Dreyfuss during filming. The play also dives into Robert's lifelong struggle with alcoholism, as well as own difficult upbringing in Scotland. (Robert's father died by suicide when he was just 12.)

Related: 'Jaws' Lives! Last Shark Mold of Steven Spielberg's Classic Film 'Transformed' for Academy Museum

<p>Matthew Murphy</p>

Matthew Murphy

"It's about love, I think. And you feel it in the audience," Ian tells PEOPLE of the play's themes. "I feel like when I'm talking about my father — when I'm playing my father talking about his father and his yearning, his loss... he wanted to comfort his father, but he wasn't able to. And it's moving."

Coincidentally, The Shark Is Broken's Broadway run at New York City's John Golden Theatre also connects Ian with his mother, Mary Ure, who performed on the same stage in the play Look Back in Anger in 1957.

"She made her Broadway debut in Look Back in Anger, and I'm making mine with this," Ian says. "And so yeah, I mean, I feel incredibly privileged to be in that position. I'm a very lucky person to be able to say that.”

The Shark Is Broken is playing now at the John Golden Theatre. More information about the production can be found on the play's official website.

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