Jaws is the first, and still easily one of the best, summer blockbusters. Because it was so successful, Jaws 2 happened and it was a very similar movie to its predecessor that is fine, but not nearly as memorable as it possibly could have been. Especially when considering what Steven Spielberg originally wanted to do with the sequel. Basically, he wanted to use Robert Shaw's infamous monologue about the USS Indianapolis as inspiration for what essentially would have been Saving Private Ryan with sharks.
Quint's speech from Jaws is one of the most beloved scenes in cinema history and what makes the whole thing so chilling is that it's based on real events. The USS Indianapolis, which was on a secret mission to deliver parts for the infamous Hiroshima bombing, did actually sink on July 30, 1945, and hundreds of men died. A good chunk of them via the mouths of some very hungry sharks. The speech delivered by Robert Shaw is almost entirely accurate, save for the date, which he says to be June 29, 1945. Only 316 of roughly 1,200 men survived. As a horrific reminder, here's some of that speech.
"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."
With the benefit of hindsight, it's very easy to see why Steven Spielberg thought this would make a great story for Jaws 2. It was something that had already been referenced in the first movie and the story is not only compelling and horrifying, but it happens to be true. At the same time, it's not hard to see why Universal didn't want to go that way with it. Something this terrifying wouldn't offer nearly as much in the way of fun summer thrills. It would be a gritty, dreadful experience. Though, in the hands of Spielberg, who instead went on to make Close Encounters of the Third Kind, probably would have been incredible.
As it happens, this story did wind up making its way to the screen, just not in such prestigious fashion. Instead, it was Nicolas Cage who starred in 2016's USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, as directed by Mario Van Peebles. The movie premiered in the Philippines and domestically went straight to VOD, streaming services and a Redbox near you. The movie currently has an abysmal 9 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you're feeling curious it's available on Netflix.
Jaws 2 was directed instead by Jeannot Szwarc and went on to become a box office hit in its own right. However, it's not the most original movie and it took virtually no risks. It was a movie made purely for the purpose of bringing in more money. Who knows what would have happened if Steven Spielberg had his way and had made the sequel based on the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis. Would we have missed out on Close Encounters? Would it have been awesome? Perhaps it would have been too ambitious and jarring? We're simply left to wonder. This comes to us courtesy of The Wrap. You can listen to the whole story at the Shoot This Now podcast.