Steven Spielberg Wanted To Make A USS Indianapolis Movie

How Quint's famous speech from JAWS almost became the series' first sequel.

While this writer has gone on record (more than once) regarding his Jaws 2 fandom - which is essentially a slasher film with a shark - a recent revelation regarding Steven Spielberg's initial plan for the sequel to his legendary great white blockbuster can't help but make anyone who reads it wonder what could've been. 

Over at the The Wrap's "Shoot This Now" podcast - which featured guest host Mark Ramsey, of the "Inside Jaws" show (which is a rather delightful chronicle of Spielberg in its own right) - they detailed the Beard's initial pitch for a Jaws sequel.

After the career saving success of his killer shark movie, Universal came to Spielberg, desperately desiring a follow-up. Spielberg said he'd do it, as long as it centered on the USS Indianapolis, which was the focus of wily fisherman Quint's (Robert Shaw) infamous monologue (which was penned by Apocalypse Now's John Milius over the phone):

What's most terrifying about this modern Ahab's speech is how eerily true it is to the tragic events that occured on July 30, 1945 (which, weirdly enough, the fisherman incorrectly states occured June 29th of the same year). The filmed version of that harrowing tale could've been the first in Spielberg's ongoing fascination with World War II - which would later include 1941, Empire of the SunSaving Private Ryan, and Schindler's List - but it's also easy to understand why Universal didn't want to sink a ton of money into a war epic from the guy who just barely got Jaws made and into theaters (a harrowing creative process that's been covered many times, best of all in Matt Taylor's Memories From Martha's Vineyard). 

On "Shoot This Now", they refer to Spielberg's pitch as being "Saving Private Ryan, with sharks", which is both slightly reductive yet incredibly vivid. Essentially an immersive "you are here now" take on the sinking of the Indianapolis while she was returning from an ultra-secret mission to deliver key elements for the bombing of Hiroshima, Spielberg wanted to place the audience in the Pacific Ocean with the 300 crewmen (of 1,200) who made it off the ship after a Japanese submarine "slammed two torpedos into its side"

The rest of the film would play like a survival horror picture, as the men attempt to stay alive while floating - both in and out of lifeboats - through the ocean, keeping themselves alive under the scorching sun and amidst numerous shark attacks. When they aren't pounding the noses of a school of feasting maneaters, hollering as to ward off these menacing beasts that swoop in to gnaw upon their Naval flesh, the sailors (including a young Quint) struggle with hydration, drinking a sometimes lethal combination of piss, salt walter, blood, and oil from the wreckage. The whole affair sounds like it would be a harrowing and essential piece of Spielberg cinema on the big screen, had it ever been made. 

Of course, the "Shoot This Now" crew went on to have a laugh at the expense of the Indianapolis picture we did end up receiving - the '16 Nic Cage-starring DTV junker Men of Courage - which only acts as salt in the wound when pondering Spielberg's potential killer. The fact that it took forty-plus years to get from a boozy Shaw to a broke Cage only acts as further proof of how studios just seemed scared off by the large scale nature of this filmic sea disaster. 

Still, as much as this writer would've loved to see Spielberg's Jaws 2: Open Water, Jeannot Szwarc's pure horror cash-in is an underrated gem; scary and full of adventure, plus you actually like the teens in its version of a body count picture. This July 4th, maybe give that one a revisit instead of journeying back to the Amity Island scare fest you already know and love too well. Might be worth a re-evaluation.