In “Jaws,” Quint, Brody (Roy Scheider), and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are enjoying some late-night downtime in their hunt for the shark. Sitting around the dinner table on Quint’s boat the Orca, they start swapping stories about scars. When Hooper notices a removed tattoo on Quint’s arm, the old fisherman reveals it’s from the Navy ship he served on: the USS Indianapolis.
True to history, Indianapolis delivered parts of the bomb that would level Hiroshima before it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. The surviving crew was left stranded in the ocean for four days and five nights, suffering what’s been called “the deadliest shark attack in history.”
Quint’s recounting of this might be my favorite ever scene in a film — it’s certainly my favorite monologue. Robert Shaw delivers the lines like a man who’s seen every image he describes in his nightmares, every night, for 30 years. He sometimes flashes a smirk or a chuckle but you can tell how uneasy he is. After he recounts how he and his surviving friends were rescued, he declares, “I’ll never put on a life jacket again,” and you understand why.
Shaw, not only an actor but a playwright and novelist too, even wrote the monologue himself. (There is some disagreement about this, but “Jaws” screenwriter Carl Gottlieb backs up Shaw as the author in his behind-the-scenes book, “The Jaws Log.”) He performed the scene over two days: the first he was drunk, and the second he was sober. Footage from both days is in the final film.