quint speech

The Indianapolis Speech By Robert Shaw In Jaws (1975)

Robert Shaw is probably the main reason for Jaws being one of my favourite films of all time, mainly of course for a scene that is three and half minutes of near-perfection. Shaw steals the scene effortlessly, aided by a few whiskeys of course, but here in 2013 most films have ten minutes without any dialogue at all, so the famous Indianapolis scene of rich dialogue without a cut is quite special and yet tragic to think that Robert Shaw died of a heart attack only 3 years after this magnificent performance as Quint.

There has been so much mythology surrounding this scene; about authorship, what was improvised, what was scripted but an interview with Spielberg on Ain’t It Cool News is quite enlightening.

Steven Spielberg advised that Howard Sackler, who was an uncredited writer, didn’t want a credit and didn’t arbitrate for one, but he’s the guy that broke the back of the script before we ever got to Martha’s Vineyard to shoot the movie.

Howard one day said, “Quint needs some motivation to show all of us what made him the way he is and I think it’s this Indianapolis incident.” I said, “Howard, what’s that?” And he explained the whole incident of the Indianapolis and the Atomic Bomb being delivered and on its way back it was sunk by a submarine and sharks surrounded the helpless sailors who had been cast adrift and it was just a horrendous piece of World War II history. Howard didn’t write a long speech, he probably wrote about three-quarters of a page.

But then, when I showed the script to my friend John Milius, John said “Can I take a crack at this speech?” and John wrote a 10 page monologue, that was absolutely brilliant, but out-sized for the Jaws I was making! (laughs) But it was brilliant and then Robert Shaw took the speech and Robert did the cut down. Robert himself was a fine writer, who had written the play The Man in the Glass Booth. Robert took a crack at the speech and he brought it down to five pages. So, that was sort of the evolution just of that speech.

Finally here is the full transcript of the monologue for you film geeks out there.

“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.

Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away.

Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.

You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.

At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

This has to be one of my favourite scenes in cinema and without doubt one of the best monologues delivered by the criminally underated

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. I watched Jaws yesterday for the first time since I was a kid. When I saw this scene yesterday, I thought “My god, this movie is more amazing than I ever realized.” This is definitely a powerful scene.

  2. I believe I read that Shaw was supposed to film this scene the previous evening but was inebriated to the point he could not do it. He returned to the set the following morning, and what is in the movie is the first take – non-stop perfection. Shaw made this movie – and as with other, the Indianapolis monologue is one of my all time movie favorite scenes.

  3. Terrific piece of cinematic history. Always thought he slightly slurred the phrase “June 29, 1945” and he may well have realized the date should have been July 29th (actually July 30th). Or maybe the writers got it wrong!

    1. I would not expect Hollywood to get much history right, as to the day the bomb was delivered to Tinian. It was about the 26 to Tinian, other perts were flown in about the 30th.

      Realistically , a vet might easily get a date wrong especially given the story and the time in the movie, and who was gonna tell Quint he got the date wrong , without Quint grabbing one of them
      bats.

  4. His soliloquy is brilliant, I think it’s the best performance in movie history. I saw Jaws when I was fifteen. Now at 55 I watch Jaws here and there since I have the dvd. That speech never loses any power for me.

    1. He truly deserved Best supporting actor , but to get nominated from a “monster movie” was/is not common. Instead George Burns won that year. But Shaw did the best, his competition should have been with Brad Dourif, and Chris Sarandon. Given the films and acting I believe Shaw was the best that year and he made Jaws as to a real character film not just a monster movie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s