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


  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.

    1. Shaw did make the movie. He wasn’t too fond of Richard Dreyfuss either, which shows in the movie.

      1. He wasn’t fond of Dreyfuss in the beginning but a few bottles solved that.

  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

    2. I watched a docu. about Jaws. They said he added to the original script & he was dog-drunk the night of the 1st(who know how many takes) but went to Speilburg 1st thing the next morning, begging for another chance. He nailed it!

  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.

    2. It was a monologue, a soliloquy is a speech to oneself, there where others present for this superb piece of dialogue.

  5. This scene is magical. The lost far away look in Shaw’s eyes even as you can still see awe. And the accent helps add something to it as well.

    When he gets into the story and that eerie music starts up in the background, the hair just raises up on the back of my neck even now – after 40 years and countless viewings. It is every bit as powerful now as it ever was. Robert Shaw was a brilliant and tragic man and an incredible actor. He completely owned that scene and even in the face of a hilarious and lively performance by Richard Dreyfuss, he owned the movie.

  6. This is the best. This scene has inspired me to read all I find about WW2. I purchased a book about the Indianapolis but had not read it. After many, many times in which I watched this movie, it clicked in my brain. I started looking through my books &, there it was. I began reading tube book. I could not imagine what those men went through but they did. Mr Shaw is an excellent actor & I am so thankful he did such a wonderful job portraying this part.

  7. It was confusing that Quint was played as an Irishman, since Shaw was clearly using an Irish brogue, would be serving in the U.S. military. Yes, of course it’s possible that Quint was a naturalized Irish citizen, but why complicate things? I don’t understand why he didn’t play Quint as an American.

    1. Lots of Micks served in WWII, even though their country stayed neutral (way too many were willing to play paddy-fingers with the Krauts because they hated Britain).

      There was enough of them in the Canadian Army to have formed their own division. And I don’t doubt once the US Army hit Northern Ireland, a lot of them made the trip to the Six Counties to enlist.

  8. Just watched jaws for the hundredth time and I sit and wait in anticipation for that masterpiece monologue. Top 5 of all time. Maybe #1. Movies and monologues like these are the reasons for my movie obsession. Well written sir

  9. Lots of Micks served in WWII, even though their country stayed neutral (way too many were willing to play paddy-fingers with the Krauts because they hated Britain).

    There was enough of them in the Canadian Army to have formed their own division. And I don’t doubt once the US Army hit Northern Ireland, a lot of them made the trip to the Six Counties to enlist.

    And I was a fan of Shaw ever since I saw him do a summer replacement, “The Buccaneers” in the 50s.

  10. What makes that scene so good for me is the set-up for it. Hooper and Quint are going back and forth playing a game of can you top this. They’re both getting drunk and the stories are great.

    Then the subject somehow gets to Quint and his background. He mentions the Indianapolis and all the levity drains from the scene instantly. Hooper recognizes the circumstances, but the chief has no clue. That sets the scene for the soliloquy just magnificently.

  11. Really great scene but it would have been better if Quint had gotten the date right.It was July 30 not June 29.A date as important as that should have been remembered correctly.

  12. This truly is one of the best movie scenes of all time.everyone should be able to agree considering i’m only 12 and I totally think it’s the best.

  13. I read a paperback about what actually happened called The Uss Indianapolis. Many things happened. Incompidance to the 10th degree. So many screw ups it almost appears like Cpt McVay was set up, for what reason, I don’t know. The accounts are so detailed… read it!

  14. It is the best monologue ever and Robert Shaw is so incredible. Even nearly 40 years later still enjoy watching this scene, and knowing that it is a part of our history makes me so proud of our veterans.

  15. His accent added a frisson of belief, for those of us unfamiliar with the Vineyard vernacular.
    You are correct, it is on reflection, an absolute classic of the genre.
    I was taken to see the movie – on its original release, by my brother, seven years my senior, which added to the experience enormously.

  16. Nice bit of background, but that had to be the worst transcript I’ve ever seen…

  17. Hi Neil. At the beginning of the post, you mention that Shaw was likely aided by a few whiskeys. In most stories I’ve read, Shaw was blind drunk passed out the day before, called Spielberg in a panic, and asked to re-shoot it. He played the re-shoot sober and nailed it in a couple of tales.

  18. I just finished reading “Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History” (Vincent/Vladic, Simon & Schuster, 2018). It was a Christmas present I couldn’t put down; I finished it in two days. It made me reach for my 1971 Collier paperback of Thomas Helm’s “Shark!” where I found a good candidate for the source of Quint’s mistaken date for the sinking. On p 84 of that edition, it’s reported as being “June 29, 1945.” Additionally, men were reported to be in the water for “less than an hour” when they sighted the first shark. Furthermore, its length was estimated to be “nearly 12 feet.” Icing on the cake: Length was ascertained “…judging by the distance between the dorsal fin and the tip of the waving caudal.” All this strongly suggests Helm’s book to be an information –and misinformation– source tapped by Jaws’ screenwriters when Quint’s monologue was sketched out a few years thereafter.

  19. Wrong date. It was sunk July 30, 1945. Quint says June 29th, but the bomb hadn’t been tested until July 16 at Almogordo. Quint was off by a month.

  20. If you read your transcript while listening to the scene there are about eight mistakes 🤓 I’m not being picky I love the scene as much as anyone, but thank you for the post .

  21. 319 (not 316) survived and 11,000+, almost 1,200 men went into the water.
    Also the date isn’t correct. It was late July, not June.
    Great scene!

  22. This and Roy Batty’s parting speech in Bladerunner – also by the actor! – are two of my favourite movie moments. We’ve , it seems to me ,to have passed those times . But , growing up in the 70’s & 80’s Im biased!

  23. Finally a site where I can express my thoughts on one of my all time favorite scenes! I’ve been distracted while watching this movie, but the second that scene comes on…I snap to! Out of respect for Mr Shaw. It’s simply a brilliant and beautiful piece of acting.

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