Sunday, January 22, 2012

ScriptWalk Fight Scenes: The Matrix

Trinity from The Matrix.
Image courtesy
Hey all,

A little backstory: I spend a fair amount of time on different screenwriting message boards, and there's one question I've seen several different times:

How do you write a fight scene?

I mean, not "you" as in me. The hypothetical "you." How does one write a fight scene, as it were. Quite.

Anyway, this is one of those tricky grey areas that no one seems to have a good answer for. Some people say you should basically write "They fight." and move onto the next scene. Other recommend nothing less than an exact blow-by-blow.

So I thought it might be fun this week to ScriptWalk through a few different famous fight scenes: take a look at the script, and then see how it translates to the finished product.

First up, The Matrix.

The Matrix: Trinity's Escape

I have a special place in my heart for The Matrix, because it was the last movie that I ever went into without any preconceived notions about what to expect. I had never heard of the movie. I had no idea what it was. It could have been about spreadsheets for all I knew.

The Matrix changed fight scenes. Hell, it changed action scenes. It's hard to remember now, but there had been almost nothing even close to the way The Matrix messed with time and space within a fight scene. And it all started, without warning, during Trinity's escape from the cops in the first few minutes.

The setup, if you haven't seen the movie in a while: several cops have shown up to arrest Trinity, whom we've just barely laid eyes on. A team of Agents arrives, and the lead Agent (Smith) reprimands the cops for going in without them.

   I sent two units.  They're 
   bringing her down now.

   No, Lieutenant, your men are dead.

First, let's look at the fight scene in an early version of the script, from April 1996. (Sourced from


 The Big Cop flicks out his cuffs, the other cops holding 
 a bead.  They've done this a hundred times, they know 
 they've got her, until the Big Cop reaches with the cuff 
 and Trinity moves --

 It almost doesn't register, so smooth and fast, inhumanly 

 The eye blinks and Trinity's palm. snaps up and the nose 
 explodes, blood erupting.  The cop is dead before he
 begins to fall.

 And Trinity is moving again --

 Seizing a wrist, misdirecting a gun, as a startled cop 

 A head explodes.

 In blind panic, another airs his gun, the barrel, a fixed 
 black hole --

 And FIRES --

 Trinity twists out of the way, the bullet missing as she 
 reverses into a roundhouse kick, knocking the gun away.

 The cop begins to scream when a jump kick crushes his 
 windpipe, killing the scream as he falls to the ground.

 She looks at the four bodies.


Pretty straightforward, as far as a fight scene goes. We get a good feel for the sequence of actions, we learn that Trinity is inhumanly quick, and she takes out the cops, mercilessly, and in short order.

But this could be a scene out of almost any action movie. Punches, kicks, twisting arms and misdirected guns -- sounds like the sort of thing Jason Bourne does for breakfast (though a bit more gory). It doesn't really feel like the famous scene we know and love -- yet.

So, let's take a look at a later draft of the same scene (June 1997, sourced from


 The Big Cop flicks out his cuffs, the other cops holding a
 bead.  They've done this a hundred times, they know
 they've got her, until the Big Cop reaches with the cuffs
 and Trinity moves --

 It almost doesn't register, so smooth and fast, inhumanly

 The eye blinks and Trinity's palm snaps up and his nose
 explodes, blood erupting.  Her leg kicks with the force of
 a wrecking ball and he flies back, a two-hundred-fifty
 pound sack of limp meat and bone that slams into the cop
 farthest from her.

 Trinity moves again, BULLETS RAKING the WALLS, flashlights
 sweeping with panic as the remaining cops try to stop a
 leather-clad ghost.

 A GUN still in the cop's hand is snatched, twisted and
 FIRED.  There is a final violent exchange of GUNFIRE and
 when it's over, Trinity is the only one standing.

 A flashlight rocks slowly to a stop.


Interesting. In a way, there's less detail here about Trinity's actual movement. The first version mentions specific moves, like roundhouse kick and jump kick. This second version leaves some of those details up to the imagination, but it does a much better job showing how inhumanly powerful Trinity is, compared to the cops.

She's no longer just twisting, punching and kicking: she's hitting with the force of a wrecking ball, and sending a 250-pound man across the room, taking out two cops with a single kick. She evades a barrage of bullets like a leather-clad ghost.

This version of Trinity isn't just "inhumanly" fast; she seems decidedly superhuman.

But... but... what about all the cool stuff? The bullet-time jump-kick and the running up the wall and the "she kicks high" no-look smackdown of the guy behind her? That must all be in the shooting script, right?

Nope. You can check it out for yourself over at -- the shooting script version of the scene looks pretty much identical to the June '97 version.

There's a lot missing from the final scene:

So where did all that stuff come in? Clearly, during the pre-production, filming, and editing of The Matrix, a lot of the visual style was designed, developed, and implemented.There was fight choreography, special effects work, foley work. Lots of stuff, and it all went into shaping this scene, as well as all of the other action scenes in the film.

But the important thing was that the feel of the scene was established in the script. In the first version, Trinity is an ass-kicker. In the later versions, she's superhuman, ghostlike, and impossible to hit. It's hard to imagine the first version of the script being translated into the scene above, but the later version comes much closer.

Of course, the Wachowski Brothers had the advantage of writing the script and overseeing its realization into the finished film. Most screenwriters don't have that level of control. But from this example, we can see the importance of conveying the visceral feel of a fight scene.

We may not need the exact choreography, but we need to know, at least in the broad strokes, what makes our own fight scenes feel different from every other rock 'em-sock 'em scene in every other movie.

(Special note about It's a brilliant site that anyone interested in screenplays should have bookmarked in their favorites. Check it out!)

Friday, January 13, 2012

ScriptWalk: Jaws, part 3 (Quint!)

This is the third and final portion of my ScriptWalk for Jaws.

I could probably write about Jaws forever, really, but you guys would all get bored and start throwing your shoes at me. And shoes hurt.

Part one covered Chief Brody. Part two was Matt Hooper. So in this final chapter, I'm going to take a look at the changes that were made to the script that involved everyone's favorite shark hunter, Quint.

Quint has some really excellent, show-stopping scenes in Jaws. Two of my favorites are his initial intro scene, and the famous Indianapolis scene.

Meet Quint

First off, his intro scene. Which was not originally intended to be his intro scene. In fact, Quint's original intro scene was cut from the final film, but here it is, thanks to the magic of the intertubes:

Yup. In both versions of the script, Quint heads into a music store to buy some #12 piano wire and decides to take a little time out of his busy day to torment a small child. There's a little tweaking between drafts, but it's pretty much the same scene.

It's not a bad scene; short, effective, funny, and a pretty good primer for Quint's general crustiness. But it feels a little extraneous to the plot, and the movie is certainly tighter without it. Had it been left in, this scene would have taken place shortly before the attack on Alex Kintner.

Now, let's take a look at Quint's introduction in the final film, which takes place after the shark eats Alex. The town council is in a panic; half the townspeople are afraid of the shark, but the other half is afraid of the business they'll lose if the mayor closes the beaches. Meanwhile, Alex Kintner's mother has offered a $3000 reward to whoever can catch the shark that ate her kid:

Jesus Christ, what a scene. The world grinds to a screeching halt while Quint makes his offer to the townspeople. It's a fantastic speech, peppered with some great bits of foreshadowing (emphasis mine):

       (after taking
       a deep breath)
      You all know me.  You know what I
      do for a living.  I'll go out and
      get this bird for you.  He's a bad
      one and it's not like goin' down
      the pond chasing blue-gills and
      tommy-cods.  This is a fish that
      can swallow a man whole.  A little
      shakin', a little tenderizing and
      down ya' go.

Quint is, of course, describing his own death in the jaws (ahem) of the shark:

A little shakin', a little tenderizing...

So, this scene works great on a couple levels. It's a very memorable introduction to the character of Quint, it nicely outlines the dilemma facing the town, and it foreshadows some of the action ahead. Most notably, Quint describes his own death in his very first scene. Trippy.

The speech is mostly there in the later (Gottlieb) version of the script, with a few things missing:


  He has just run his large, coarse fingernails over the black-
  board.  He is a large, rough man, a professional fisherman
  marked by daily physical toil,  About 45 or 50, it's hard to
  tell where the scars leave off and the wrinkles begin.  There
  is a bit of the showman in him, as well as a bit of killer-

       (after taking
       a deep breath)
      You all know me.  You know what I
      do for a living.  I'll go out and
      get this bird for you.  He's a bad
      one and it's not like goin' down
      the pond chasing blue-gills and
      tommy-cods.  This is a fish that
      can swallow a man whole.  A little
      shakin', a little tenderizing and
      down ya' go.
       (a look to Vaughn)
      You gotta get this fellow and get
      him quick.  If you do, it'll bring
      a lot of tourist business just to
      see him and you've got your busi-
      ness back on a paying basis.
      A shark of that size is no pleasure
      and I value my neck at a hell of a
      lot more'n 3,000 bucks.
       (a deadly look)
      I'll find him for three.  But I'll
      kill him for ten.
  Crowd reaction.
       (he rises up)
      The bastard is costing you more'n
      that every day.  Do you wanna stay
      alive and annee up the ten or play
      it cheap and be on welfare next
       (a final moment)
      I'm gonna kill this thing...just a
      matter of whether I do it now -- or
      at the end of summer.

      Thank you very much, Mr. Quint,
      the Selectmen will take your offer
      under advisement.

The lines about Quint not wanting any mates must have been added later, as was "For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing." Which really just caps the whole thing off nicely, doesn't it? In the film, Quint then gets up and walks about, followed by his... friend? Associate? Assistant? Gimp? The weird guy with the dog, whoever he is.

Now let's take a look at this speech in the original version of the script, to see how much it changed.

Oh, wait, we can't do that, because in the original version of this scene, Quint isn't even there.

Seriously. Imagine that scene again, but instead of Quint, it's the weird little gimp guy, whose name is apparently Salvatore (in this version, anyway. Looks like it's Herschel in the other version). Salvatore shows up at the meeting and delivers the offer from Quint.

Honest. It's right here:

  Vaughn opens the door to the Bureau of Records.  About two
  dozen children sit around, twisting multi-colored Kleenex
  into artificial flowers for the big parade.  Vaughn turns
  his face into a condescending grin.

      Could the big people have a grownup
      meeting in here, please, children.

      Get lost.

  A voice from behind Vaughn draws him away.  It is a small
  but muscular black man named Salvatore.

      Mr. Vaughn?

  He steps out of the shadows, hat in hand.

      Mister Quint sent me down from

      What for?

      Well...he out catchin' them things
      every day practily.  Price's right,
      he come catch yours here.

      What's he get?

      Ten thousand and a color TV.

      How much?

      Twenty-seven inch.  Japanese one.

  Vaughn studies the little blinking man, ready to laugh.

      Mister Quint's services are not
      required, thanks.
       (stopping a secretary)
      Is there an empty office anywhere
      in this goddam building?

      Weights and Measures nobody ever

  Vaughn starts away and the crowd follows.

      I'd haul it in myself before I'd
      pay anything to that
      wanna hear what he did to three
      friends of mine on a Saint Valentine's
      Day sporting charter?

Well. That was a little different huh? Assuming they'd kept the music store scene, I wonder if you'd even remember who Quint was while Salvatore was talking about him?

The Indianapolis

Of course, the intro scene isn't the only amazing Quint speech in the film.

As the sun sets on their first full day of shark-chasing, Quint, Brody, and Hooper sit in the galley, comparing tattoos and then... aw hell, who am I kidding? Here's the scene:

Again, a show-stopper. This scene was about as true a group effort as you can get in screenwriting, with Benchley, Gottlieb, John Milius, and Robert Shaw all taking a crack at the famous monologue. In the end, it was Shaw's version that resonated, and the result is what you see in the film.

Let's go back to the early script, Benchley's version, to see how this scene started out:

  Hooper shrugs.  Quint hands him the bottle.  Hooper cocks
  his head, noticing a scar patch on Quint's right forearm.

      How'd you get that one?

  Quint, staring out to sea, doesn't seem to hear Hooper.
  The signal light disappears.

      Down again.

      The scar on your arm.

      Had a tattoo there.

      Changed your mind about somebody?

       (shaking his head)
      It said 'U.S.S. Indianapolis.'

 191 CLOSE - HOOPER        191

  His face falls as he hears this.  Quint looks at him ironi-

      Guess you experts know about that.

  Once again Quint turns his eyes to the sea.

      You were on her?  June '45?

       (flat and quiet)
      On her and torpedoed right off her.
      Into the drink with 900 other clowns
      ...Started with 900 anyway...floating
      in that big warm Pacific.
       (the light surfaces again)
      Must have been like a dinner bell
      in there...Explosions, and half
      the guys bleeding.  Soon as the
      sharks came homing in on us, we
      went by the Manual, of course...
      Kept trying to float in groups...
      doin' what if said, splash at 'em,
      yell at 'em, hit 'em on the nose,
      they won't bother you...all that.
      They tore apart about a hundred
      men, the first night.  And pretty
      soon, when they stepped it up, and
      you'd feel 'em bump you, and guys'd
      get pulled down a couple of yards
      away, and it got to two days...and
      three...Well, some fellas couldn't
      take it no more, just peeled off
      their life-jackets, got it over with
      ...We were in the water 110 hours.
      Sharks averaged six men an hour.
       (nails Hooper
       a hard look)
      They're all experts.
       (spits in the ocean)

       (weakened by the story)
      Jesus, Quint!  You can't blame ---

  Hooper is interrupted by the boom and banshee cries of
  a distant whale. 

A short little speech, with just the seeds of the monologue we'll see later. Quint seems the most angry at Hooper, of all people, for being a shark expert when the "experts" who wrote his old Navy survival manual clearly had no idea what they were talking about.

Spielberg knew that this needed to be a big scene, and Gottlieb certainly expanded on Benchley's version. Here's what we see in Gottlieb's version of the speech:

189 CLOSE ON QUINT         189

      Yeah.  The U.S.S. Indianapolis.
      June 29th, 1945, three and a half
      minutes past midnight, two torpedoes
      from a Japanese submarine slammed
      into our side.  Two or three.  We
      was still under sealed orders after
      deliverin' the bomb...the Hiroshima
      bomb...we was goin' back across the
      Pacific from Tinian to Leyte.  Damn
      near eleven hundred men went over
      the side.  The life boats was lashed
      down so tight to make the bomb run
      we couldn't cut a single one adrift.
      Not one.  And there was no rafts.

      That vessel sank in twelve minutes.
      Yes, that's all she took.

      We didn't see the first shark till
      we'd been in the water about an hour.
      A thirteen-footer near enough.  A
      blue.  You measure that by judgin'
      the dorsal to the tail.  What we
      didn't know...of course the Captain
      knew...I guess some officers knew
      ...was the bomb mission had been so
      secret, no distress signals was sent.
      What the men didn't know was that
      they wouldn't even list us as over-
      due for a week.  Well, I didn't know
      that -- I wasn't an officer -- just
      as well perhaps.

      So some of us were dead already --
      in the water -- just hangin' limp
      in our lifejackets.  And several
      already bleedin'.  And the three
      hundred or so laying on the bottom
      of the ocean.

      As the light went, the sharks came
      crusin'.  We formed tight groups --
      somewhat like squares in an old
      battle -- You know what I mean --
      so that when one come close, the man
      nearest would yell and shout and
      pound the water and sometimes it
      worked and the fish turned away, but
      other times that shark would seem to
      look right at a man -- right into
      his eyes -- and in spite of all
      shoutin' and poundin' you'd hear
      that terrible high screamin' and
      the ocean would go red, then churn
      up as they ripped him.  Then we'd
      reform our little squares.

      By the first dawn the sharks had
      taken more than a hundred.  Hard
      for me to count but more than a
      hundred.  I don't know how many
      sharks.  Maybe a thousand.  I do
      know they averaged six men an hour.
      All kinds -- blues, makos, tigers.
      All kinds.

      In the middle of the second day, some
      of us started to go crazy from the
      thirst.  One fella cried out he
      saw a river, another claimed he saw
      a waterfall, some started to drink
      the ocean and choked on it, and
      some left our little groups --
      our little squares -- and swam off
      alone lookin' for islands and the
      sharks always took them right away.
      It was mainly the young fellas that
      did that -- the older ones stayed
      where they was.

      That second day -- my life jacket
      rubbed me raw and that was more
      blood in the water.  Oh my.

      On Thursday morning I bumped up
      against a friend of mine -- Herbie
      Robinson from Cleveland -- a bosun's
      mate -- it seemed he was asleep but
      when I reached over to waken him,
      he bobbed in the water and I saw
      his body upend because he'd been
      bitten in half beneath the waist.

      Well Chief, so it went on -- bombers
      high overhead but nobody noticin'
      us.  Yes -- suicides, sharks, and
      all this goin' crazy and dyin' of

      Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a
      Lockheed Ventura swung around and
      came in low.  Yes.  He did that.
      Yes, that pilot saw us.

      And early evenin', a big fat PBY
      come down out of the sky and began
      the pickup.  That was when I was
      most frightened of all -- while I
      was waitin' for my turn.  Just two
      and a half hours short of five days
      and five nights when they got to
      me and took me up.

      Eleven hundred of us went into that
      ocean -- three hundred and sixteen
      got out.  Yeah.  Nineteen hundred
      and forty five.  June the 29th.
      Anyway, we delivered the bomb. 

There's a lot of stuff here that we'll see in the final version. But the spirit of the speech still isn't quite there yet. Part of that is the way Shaw delivers it: he grins through almost the entire speech, like he was telling some big lark of a story. "A funny thing happened on the way back from delivering the bomb..."

But the speech itself is much more intense in the final version. The description of the shark itself is chilling, and it doesn't find its way into the speech until Shaw's version: And the idea was, the shark nearest man and then he'd start poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces.

Another detail that doesn't come up until Shaw's version is this: You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again

A single line, almost thrown away at the end of the speech, but it sums up Quint's entire philosophy, and hangs a bright red light on the fact that Quint is on a suicide mission, and he knows it. He's going to kill this shark or die trying. No rescue. No lifejacket. (Which probably explains why his first mate refuses to go out on this hunt with him, earlier in the movie. He knows that Quint has a deathwish.) 

Quint was always intended to be an Ahab-like character. Early drafts of the film even have him watching the film version of Moby Dick, just to drive the point home:

 136 INT. MOVIE HOUSE       136

 137 FULL SCREEN        137

  Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in an outpouring of classic
  Melville.  The white whale explodes through the waves and
  crushes sixteen harpooners.  A single sandpapery laugh
  accompanies each special effect.

 138 ANGLE - MOVIE HOUSE       138

  Quint sits in the center aisle, popcorn and ju-ju-bees
  stuffing his face.  The splayed projection beams dance
  around his head as he roars with amusement.  People are
  getting up and moving away from him.  He is watching with
  delight, slapping his thigh, thumping the seat-back with
  his feet.

 139 FULL MOVIE SCREEN       139

  We watch as Ahab gets tangled in the line and dragged under
  by the whale.  Quint can be heard OVER.

What is this, Cape Fear?

Anyway, despite the intention of making Quint a modern-day Ahab, the movie never really pulls this off until the Indianapolis scene was perfected. Watching that scene, you really get the feeling that Quint is not exactly... y'know... sane. Which makes it mush more plausible when he goes nuts and smashes the radio to pieces with a bat when Brody tries to call for help.

In the earlier drafts, Quint seems motivated by money and a dislike of sharks. By the time Shaw gets done with him, we can see that Quint is obsessed with killing this shark as a form of revenge against all sharks, everywhere.

Character Spectrum

Okay, I'm almost done, and if you're still with me, you deserve a medal. I just wanted to say one more thing about the characters of Jaws.

It's interesting to line these characters up and see how they represent the different forces at work on Brody, who is action-oriented, but almost neutral.

Mayor Vaughn: Denial, Inaction, Blindness.

Matt Hooper: Curiosity, Clarity, Vision

Brody: Action, but held back by self-doubt.

Quint: Madness, Obsession.

At the start of the movie, Brody leaps into action to close the beaches, but it easily sucked back into inaction by Mayor Vaughn. It's not until Matt Hooper arrives that Brody is able to see through the blindness affecting the town and start taking more proactive steps; cutting open the tiger shark, getting a beach patrol set up.

But it's not until Brody teams up with Quint that he gains a killer instinct. Remember, Brody left NYC because of the violence:

I'm telling ya, the crime rate in New York will kill ya. There's so many problems, you never feel like your accomplishing anything. Violence, rip-offs, muggings, kids can't leave the house, you gotta walk `em to school. But in Amity, one man can make a difference. In twenty five years, there's never been a shooting or murder in this town. 

Brody is passive, both in his willingness to go along with Mayor Vaughn's blindness, and in his distaste for violence.

Just as Hooper is essential to making Brody see, Quint is essential to waking up Brody's violent side. But Quint is too far in this direction; and Brody and Hooper both almost pay the price for teaming up with him. In the end, Quint's obsessive, violent hatred destroys his own ship and gets him killed.

But Brody uses symbolic tools from both Quint (the rifle, or violence) and Hooper (the scuba tank, or exploration/knowledge) to destroy the shark. He internalizes Hooper's drive to see more with Quint's bloodthirsty nature, and with those aspects of himself back in balance, is able to kill the shark.

The first time, anyway. Let's not get into the sequels. 

(Quint image from Empire Online.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

ScriptWalk: Jaws, Part 2

Welcome to the second part of my ScriptWalk through Jaws.

The basic idea of ScriptWalk is simple; I compare two versions of the script, or a version of the script to the finished film, to take a look at how scenes change during the revision or filming process.

In the last post, I compared an early draft of the introduction of Martin Brody to a later draft, to show how the later draft had improved upon the first, both in terms of introducing the character and introducing some visual and narrative themes that would drive the rest of the movie.

I promised to tackle another character introduction this time, and for anyone that was hoping I was going to tackle Quint, I apologize. This post will be about Matt Hooper. We'll save Quint (and the famous Indianapolis scene) for part three.

Enter Matt Hooper

By the time we meet Matt Hooper, things in Amity are pretty bad. Despite Chief Brody's desire to shut down the beach after the film's opening shark attack, he's caved to pressure from the mayor, the town elders, and the local businesses to keep the beaches open.

Spoiler alert: This is a mistake. It doesn't take long for the shark to make a return trip to Amity's all-you-can-eat buffet and chow down on his next victim, young Alex Kintner. (I guess technically Pippet the dog was the next victim, but you get the idea.)

Shortly after the attack, we meet young Matt Hooper, a shark expert brought in by a phone call from Chief Brody. Hooper arrives in the midst of the circus that erupts following the offer of a $3000 reward for the capture of the shark. People have come from all over the east coast to try their hand at shark hunting. It's chaos.

I originally wrote a long (very long) piece covering Hooper's actual introduction scene, but then realized that maybe it was little much. The scene that intros Hooper is a long one, given that it takes place in the middle of the shark-hunting frenzy. If you're interested in reading my take on the way this scene evolved from the early draft to the revised draft, and again to the final film, I've put it all into a separate "bonus" entry. I think it's interesting stuff, but probably only if you're a hardcore script nerd. 

On the other hand, there's a nice short Hooper scene that works as a great, concise demonstration of how much a scene can change and improve through revision. You probably know it as the autopsy scene, or the "This was no boat accident!" scene.

If you've seen Jaws, well, ever, you probably know this scene; it's short, intense, and memorable. But in case you need a refresher, the folks over at Turner Classic Movies have the clip:

Now, let's take a look at the original version of the script for that scene:

 90 INTERIOR - MORGUE - DAY       90

  Hooper is measuring the bite marks on the Day-Glow raft with
  his dial calibrators.

      I'll look at her now if you don't


  Hooper scribbles notes, then mumbles something inaudible
  into his pocket cassette recorder.  Coroner Santos looks
  to Brody, plaintively.

      That was a different sort of acci-
      dent.  As I told you ---

       (guilty, angry)
      Let him.

  The coroner hesitates, then walks to the ice chest and slides
  open the drawer.

 92 CLOSE - HOOPER        92

  At first his face registers shock.  Then, with forced composure,
  Hooper steadies his hands and begins to take pictures with his

      I've heard the boat-propeller story
      several times.  And the nocturnal
      hatchet-murder story, the dashed-
      upon-the-razor-coral story --
       (to Brody)
      The little boy was never found?

  Brody nods, looking down at his feet.

      They're very successful creatures,
      sharks.  Eighty million year's
      antiquity for the species of the
      Great White.  The family goes as far
      back as three-hundred million.  Plenty
      of time to get good at what they do.

  An attendant flies into the room, joyfully out of wind.

      They called from the dock, Mr. Brody!
      They got it!

 93 CLOSE - HOOPER        93

  He appears stunned.

 94 CLOSE - BRODY        94

  enjoying a lightheadedness he hasn't felt in weeks.

      Want to see? 

Wow. The original script barely resembles the finished product. There's an autopsy, sure, but instead of the emotional jolt we get in the film, we get... a lecture about shark history. The scene drops with a dull thud, and then reverses into some weird feel-good aw-shucks moment with Chief Brody eager to play show-and-tell. Want to see?

We've already seen the finished version of the scene, but let's take a quick look at the revised script, just for comparison's sake:

90 INT. - MORGUE - DAY       90

  The Amity Morgue is also the Amity Funeral Home, a Victorian
  house that normally serves as the community's mortuary.  The
  Coroner, a professional small-town GP, is standing by as
  Hooper is speaking into a sophisticated cassette recorder
  with a headpiece that leaves his hands free for measurement
  with a calibrator or calipers.

      Let's show Mr. Hooper our accident.

  With a shrug, the Coroner slides open the drawer.

 91 CLOSE ON HOOPER        91

  He is looking down as the drawer slides past him, still
  matter-of-fact, turning on his recorder.

      Victim One, identified as Christine
      Watkins, female caucasian....

  The sheet has just been lifted, and Hooper stares down at the
  lump on the slab.  He stops, turns off his recorder as
  emotions wage war with his senses.  Rationality wins, and
  he turns on the recorder again.

      ...height and weight may only be
      estimated from partial remains.
      Torso severed in mid-thorax,
      eviscerated with no major organs
      remaining.  May I have a drink of
      water?  Right arm severed above
      the elbow with massive tissue loss
      from upper musculature.  Portions
      of denuded bone remaining.
       (tense, to Brody)
      -- did you notify the coast guard?

      No, it was local jurisdiction.

      Left arm, head, shoulders, sternum
      and portions of ribcage intact.
       (to Brody)
      Please don't smoke.  With minor
      post-mortem lacerations and abrasions.
      Bite marks indicate typical non-
      frenzy feeding pattern of large
      squali, possibly carchaninus lonimanus,
      or isurus glaucas.  Gross tissue
      loss and post-mortem erosion of bite
      surfaces prevent detailed analysis;
      however, teeth and jaws of the
      attacking squali must be considered
      above average for these waters.
       (to Brody again)
      -- Did you go out in a boat and
      look around?

      No, we just checked the beach....

       (turns off the recorder)
      It wasn't an 'accident,' it wasn't
      a boat propeller, or a coral reef,
      or Jack the Ripper.  It was a shark.
      It was a shark. 

This script is almost word-for-word what we get in the finished version. Dreyfuss' delivery really sells the scene, but it's all there on paper. Instead of a fact-spouting automaton, Matt Hooper comes across as a real person; shocked, angry, accusatory.

While the first version has Hooper tossing clever facts at Brody, the revised version demonstrates his expertise in a much more organic way, by having him dictating his notes with a clear mastery of human anatomy and shark attack patterns. Hooper's grisly description of the wounds is made a little less sensationalistic by the technical jargon, and we get the sense that this is also something he's doing to give himself a small pocket of rational thought in which to work while examining body remains that could fit in your average briefcase.

It's no wonder. Take a moment to think about what Hooper is saying, and you realize that the shark ate pretty much all of Christine Watkins save for her throat, shoulders, skull, and a forearm. Hooper was expecting a possible shark attack victim, but what he's seeing is an absolute horror, and he can't believe that these people just shrugged it off and left the beaches open.

Interestingly, the revised scene takes one of Hooper's original lines and turns it on its head:

      I've heard the boat-propeller story
      several times.  And the nocturnal
      hatchet-murder story, the dashed-
      upon-the-razor-coral story --

Is turned into:

       (turns off the recorder)
      It wasn't an 'accident,' it wasn't
      a boat propeller, or a coral reef,
      or Jack the Ripper.  It was a shark.
      It was a shark. 

In the original, Hooper is just relating all the different theories he's heard to explain away attacks like this. In the revision, he is chastising Brody and the coroner for their willful blindness, which is brought home even more strongly by Dreyfuss' performance in the scene.

Finally, instead of the goofy, upbeat "We got 'em boss!" ending of the original scene, the revised scene smash cuts straight from Hooper saying the word "shark" to a shot of the gruesome dead shark carcass on the docks, with its mouth being pried open by the victorious fishermen. From the word shark to an image of a shark, and from one autopsy to another, we get a nice little bit of unity of theme in the revised script that's not in the original.

So, you can see how drastically the revised script changed this autopsy scene. I think it's safe to say that the original wouldn't be nearly as memorable, and certainly nowhere near as quotable as the final product.

I wanted to wrap up part two of the Jaws ScriptWalk with a little more about the role of Matt Hooper in the story, and why the revisions to the script were so critical to making the film work overall.

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

In part one, I talked a little about the theme of blindness that's established in the revised version of the Martin Brody introduction scene. Maybe even more than the shark itself, blindness is what puts Amity in real danger.

Blindness is personified in the character of Mayor Vaughn, who literally refuses to believe that there's a dangerous shark in the waters, and likewise refuses to take any precautions to keep the town and its visitors safe.

Now, the obvious dynamic would be to have Chief Brody in opposition to Mayor Vaughn. But he's not. In fact, Brody lets Vaughn talk him out of closing the beaches. Brody is willing to ignore the danger to the town, and even to his own family, after Vaughn pressures him to change the autopsy report to a boat accident and keep the beaches open for business. Brody, on the edge of doing the right thing, gives in and adopts Vaughn's blindness.

Martin Brody, on his own, cannot overcome the town's collective blindness. He needs Matt Hooper for that, because Hooper symbolizes clarity of vision.

There are several clues throughout the movie that support this idea. Hooper is very vision-oriented. Here's how he's described when he first appears on the movie screen (emphasis mine.)

 72 CLOSE ON BOAT        72

  Matt Hooper, a bearded, bespectacled young man with an intent
  look, is maneuvering the vessel peering through his windscreen
  at the ragtag collection of seafaring loonies all around him.

During the autopsy, Hooper demands to know if  Brody went out into the water and "looked around." He also angrily asks Brody not to smoke in the room; Hooper may be demanding clarity of vision from Brody by preventing him from "blowing smoke." A stretch? Maybe. But this quick little throw-away line was put in on purpose.

We get more clues throughout the film that Hooper symbolizes vision. During a confrontation with Mayor Vaughn, he tells the mayor to look at the shark that has been spray-painted onto a tourist billboard:

Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, ah, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks. And that's all. Now why don't you take a long close look at this sign. Those proportions are correct.

Want more? Hooper is always pushing Brody to examine things he'd rather ignore. He convinces Brody to cut open the tiger shark to see if it's the one that ate Alex Kintner. He practically drags Brody out on the water at night to look for the real shark. Hooper's boat is equipped with powerful lights, as well as underwater cameras and sonar equipment. When they find the wreckage of the Ben Gardner's boat, Hooper gears up to take a look without a moment's hesitation.

All of this is added in the revisions. In fact, in the original draft, Hooper tells Brody that he thinks the shark has moved on, only to find out later that he was completely wrong. There's no shark autopsy. Hooper is absent during the billboard scene. Hooper discovers Ben Gardner's boat by accident, without Brody.

When comparing the two drafts, the changes to Matt Hooper's character might be the most significant in the entire script. His personality and his role in the story are completely rewritten in Gottlieb's version; Hooper's insistence on seeing more and digging deeper is largely responsible for keeping Brody and the action moving forward from scene to scene. The original script has an almost haphazard series of events that lead to the ultimate hunt for the shark. The revised version changes this to a methodical, logical progression, thanks in large part to the presence of Matt Hooper.

In the next part of the Jaws ScriptWalk, I'll tackle the character of Quint. By comparing just a few scenes, we'll see how Gottlieb's draft changes the character of Quint in a way that also drives the story in a significant way, especially toward the end of the second act. I also want to take a few key characters and line them up along a kind of emotional spectrum. It'll make more sense when you see it.

Again, if you want to see more about Matt Hooper's introductory scene, and how it changed from early draft to revised draft to final film, check out my bonus comparison here. Otherwise, I'll see you next time!

Y'know... I hope.

(Photo cribbed from All That Comes With It, though I'm guessing the copyright is owned by Universal.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jaws ScriptWalk Bonus: Matt Hooper Intro

Okay, if you're here, chances are you came from part two of my Jaws ScriptWalk, which focuses on the famous autopsy scene.

In this bonus section, I want to take a look at the first time we actually meet Matt Hooper as a character, which takes place during the chaos of the shark hunt scene. So here we go.

In the early draft of the script, Hooper locates Chief Brody and immediately begins lecturing him on the intricacies of shark behavior:


  Matt Hooper, a bearded, backpacking young man, is at the helm,
  peering ahead at the ragtag armada.  He ties up, revealing for
  the first time a seven-by-four foot steel cage in the stern,
  drawing some attention.
(Hooper disappears for a couple scenes amid the chaos. - BH) 

 76 ANGLE - LANDING        76

  Hooper sees Brody, up in arms about something, walking toward
  him.  Hooper starts to speak, but Brody veers aside and yells
  over the pier at the loading boats.

      No dynamite!  Hand that stuff over
      or you'll never leave port!

        MAN IN BOAT
      It's fireworks.  I read somewhere
      it attracts 'em.

      Sharks are equipped with two long
      cords of nerve tissue that function
      as a sort of radar for homing in on
      underwater vibrations.
       (to Brody)
      Understand you're having a little
      shark trouble.

  Brody turns and walks away, Hooper barely keeping up with him.

      I know you have a visitor off your
      southern shores.  I think it could
      be my shark.

      It belongs to whoever catches it.
       (to a late arrival)
      You'll move this car to a parking
      slot, mister, or it won't be here
      when you get back.

      Sir, I'm not with these others ---

      It's always nice to meet an educated

      I'm interning at the American
      Museum of Natural History, but the
      Oceanographic Research Institute in
      South Africa is co-sponsoring my
      thesis paper arm in arm with the
      Natural Institute of Health and the
      Marine Fishery Service.

  Brody pauses to look hard at Hooper. A careless amateur trips and falls
  into the harbor beyond him.

      I don't have time to help you with
      your homework.

  Brody goes over to lend a hand.  Hooper persists.

      I'm trying to prove that the shark
      that killed Christine Watkins last
      Friday was the same rogue that
      savaged these.

  Hooper pushes a mimeographed sheet in front of Brody.  About
  twenty names and addresses in all.

      One shark did all this?

       (his excitement
       multiplying as
       he goes on)
      The trail of a rogue shark leads
      all over the world.  This is only
      a theory.  It has never been authen-
      ticated, but there is a wonderful
      chance that the shark that killed
      the Watkins girl and the man-eater
      I tagged off the Great Barrier Reef
      are the one and the same.  Off and on
      I've tracked it to New Zealand,
      Santiago Bay, Cape Town South Africa
      ...uh...the Gulf of Guinea, then
      West Palm Beach, Florida last
      December -- and finally predicted
      it would follow the warming Gulf
      Stream into the Northern Seasonal
      Zones, and release an attack pattern
      along the Jersey Coast.  I was off
      by just three hundred miles.  It
      hit you instead.

      You'll pardon me i f I don't help
      you get your Ph.D. while my town here
      degenerates into some high-class
      ghost resort.

  Brody starts away.  In the background all boats are heading
  toward open ocean.

      All I'm asking is for a little future
      cooperation.  I could predict future
      outbursts of attack activity in the
      area.  Use me...Let me use you.  I
      scored 93 on my Orals, for crying
      out loud!

      We've had two other attacks since
      the Watkins thing, both fatal.
      Could you kill it for us?

       (honest response)
      No sir, I couldn't.

      Then how do we begin to cooperate?

      By letting me see Christine Watkins.

All right, you know the drill. What do we learn about Matt Hooper here?
  • Physical description: Young, backpacker type, wears glasses. 
  • Has a boat with a dive cage. We can expect to see this cage used in the future. 
  • He's a shark expert. There's no missing that. He starts quoting shark facts as soon as he opens his mouth. He also gives his professional credentials up front.
  • He's been tracking a man-eating shark, likely this shark, for months. He even tagged it, and has accurately predicted its pattern of travel. 
  • He kinda... likes talking about how smart he is. He got a 93 on his orals, for crying out loud!
  • He can't kill the shark. 
  • He's needy. He basically is pleading with Brody to help him prove his theory. 
Some interesting stuff to pick over in this character intro. The first is how heavy-handed the scene is about telling us how smart Matt Hooper is. He quotes shark facts. He's basically working with three prestigious scientific bodies at the same time. He got a 93 on his orals, for crying out loud!

We get it. He's smart. He tells us in three different ways in case we missed it. And he's also needy, almost whiny. I can't imagine this incarnation of the character really winning over the audience.

The second interesting thing for me is that Matt Hooper has a history with this shark. He and this shark go way back. He's literally been chasing this shark for months.

I'm going to say it straight: this is a terrible idea, for two big reasons:
  1. Giving Hooper a long history with the shark diminishes the protagonist/antagonist relationship between the shark and Brody. Brody suddenly feels like a little brother tagging along on date. 
  2. It kills the mystery of the shark, changing it from an unknowable killing machine to a predictable, pretty well-understood creature. Still scary if you happen to be dog-paddling around Amity, to be sure, but not the boogeyman for the audience that it was until now. We're just lucky Hooper has resisted the urge to give the shark a cute nickname, like Harvey or Toothy McGee or something.
And now, let's talk about foreshadowing. There's not much there, aside from the presence of the cage on the deck of Hooper's boat, which might as well have a red siren on it. Benchley even points out the the other people in the scene notice the cage. There's foreshadowing, and there's screaming. This is screaming.

So, how does this scene change in the revised version? Quite a bit. But if you've seen the movie recently, you'll notice that a lot of Hooper's personality is still MIA. Let's take a look.


  Making its way through the channel towards the dock is a
  sleek, expensive runabout with the name Fascinatin Rhythm"
  on the stern.  It's professionally handled, and rumbles in as
  it coasts in towards the dock area.  Some other boats clear
  the way for it, zig-zagging in the harbor, causing an annoy-
  ing chop.
 72 CLOSE ON BOAT        72

  Matt Hooper, a bearded, bespectacled young man with an intent
  look, is maneuvering the vessel peering through his windscreen
  at the ragtag collection of seafaring loonies all around him. 

  Matt Hooper is gliding into the dockside, and Ben throws him a
  line to help make fast as he moors.  It's a small island of
  courtesy in an otherwise discourteous mob.  Hooper nods politely
  as he ties his boat up and steps onto the dock.


      Hello, back.

  He's standing near where Brody is finishing after his encounter
  with the chummers.

  Brody approaches Ben Gardner.

      You going out too, Ben?

      Might give it a try.  That three
      thousand bounty beats working for
      a living.
       (yells to his Mate)
      We ready?

  The Mate nods "Yes" and starts to prepare to get under way.
  Ben and his Mate move away from the dock, headed towards the
  channel and the open sea leaving Felix and Pratt to scamper
  around the dock looking for another ride.


  A particularly awkward moment between a small sailboat and a
  couple of powerboats.  The sailboat is trying to hoist sail
  to make it away from the pier under sail, a real yachtsman's
  conceit, since Hornblower himself probably couldn't navigate
  through this mess.  Brody, a landlubber for sure, is trying
  to direct traffic to untangle this new mess.

      Just back up!  No, the other way!
      Cut it to your left!  Your other
      left!  The big boat, your front end
      is out way too far.  Little boat,
      stay still!

  Amidst all this, we can hear the angry shouts of the entangled

      Dammit, a vessel under sail has the
      right of way!

      You schmuck, you ain't under sail,
      you're goddam drifting!

       (stepping in to help)
      Ahoy, sail!  You got an oar?  Well,
      scull it out!

      Tell that stinkpotter to belay!

      Tell that ragsetter I'm going to
      poke him in the snoot!

      Just cast off in turn and make for
      the channel, OK?


  Brody starts back towards the shore, Hooper is by his side.

      Excuse me, I wonder if you could
      tell me....

  Before he can finish, Brody spots something on shore that
  moves him to shout to his deputy.

       (noticing something)
      Is that dynamite?

  Brody looks, and stops by a boat that's about to cast off.
  He holds out his hand.

      If that's dynamite, give it here,
      or don't leave port.

      Aw, c'mon, it's just fireworks.
      Sharks like fireworks, it attracts

      Hand it over.

  The man passes Brody a cigar box filled with dynamite sticks.
  Brody tucks the dynamite under his arm, and continues down
  the pier.  Hooper is still with him.

  All around them are two distinctly different breeds; the
  quiet pros, like Ben Gardner, in well-worn, comfortable
  clothes, with efficient, sensible gear, and the amateur
  crazies, with all manner of weapons and impractical, silly
  tourist clothing.

 76-A INT. DOCK SHED - DAY       76-A

  Brody is on the phone, talking to his office, trying to get
  Hendricks' attention.  He throws a handful of washers at the

      There's a fantail launch out there
      that won't make it beyond the break-

      You're tellin' me.  I swear, this
      town has gone crazy.

      Officer, I wonder if you could tell
      me where I could find Chief Brody?

      Who are you?

      Hooper, Matt Hooper.  From the
      Oceanographic Institute.
       (holds out his

All right. What do we know about this version of Matt Hooper?

  • Again, he has a boat. A "sleek, expensive runabout" named "Fascinating Rhythm." This Matt Hooper seems to have both money and culture. Also, amid the chaos of the amateur shark hunters, Matt handles his boat professionally. 
  • He's helpful: As soon as Hooper lands, he sees Brody struggling to direct boat traffic for probably the first time in his life. He gives quick, succinct directions to the boats to help them get clear. He also notices one of the boats carrying dynamite and alerts Brody.
  • He's from the Oceanographic Institute. 
Oddly, the scene just ends here. In the finished film, Brody and Hooper chat for another couple of moments.

We get some interesting new stuff in this version of script. Hooper's personality is far less nerdy, far less needy, and a bunch more helpful. All the stuff about Hooper's history with the shark has been thankfully excised. Also, the shark cage is no longer presented to the audience.

Instead of that heavy-handed bit of foreshadowing, though, we have something much subtler: the first person Matt Hooper meets upon arriving in Amity is Ben Gardner. In case you don't remember who that is, the link below should help refresh your memory (sorry, embedding disabled on this link; you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way):

Video: That's Ben Gardner's boat!

Personally, I think it was worth the trade-off. Not only do we get a moment of Hooper meeting Ben Gardner, but Gardner is also established as one of the non-crazies; a competent guy who knows what he's doing. His death ups the ante again on how dangerous this shark is. 

As much as this scene has changed, a lot of Hooper's personality is still missing here; particularly his acerbic sense of humor. Take a look at this transcript of the final film. (The full transcript is available here.)

[Hooper disembarking]
Ben Gardner:
Hello back... young feller. How are ya? Say I hope you not going out with those nuts are ya?
Lady would ya? The weak top boat's gotta move out first. You have to move out or he can't get out at all!
Boys, boys. Don't raise sail, your just going to luff with it. Do you have a paddle on the boat?
Yeah I got a paddle.
So scull outta here.
Officer, officer! Wait a second, wait a second! Just --
Hey! How many guys are you going to put aboard that boat!
Yeah? Well that ain't safe!
Easy! Watch it, that's dynamite.
Hey, what you gonna...what are you doing with that? Where are you going with that?!
I'm going on the boat.
Oh no, no, no! Please, please. Help get those guys out of the boat, will ya please?
Sure. Gentlemen, gentlemen?! The officer asked me to tell you that you're overloading that boat.
Ah, get outta here! You ain't going there, what do you care? Hold on there.
Well then, can you tell me if there's a good restaurant or hotel on the island?
Yeah ya walk straight ahead! Ha ha!
Ha ha they're all gonna die.


Polly, listen to me. We got some road block signs outside. Now you.. you... you gotta get somebody to help us. Yeah get those, get those road block signs out on the highway. Because we got more people down here than we can handle.
What are you doing out there? These are your people, go and talk to them!
Those aren't my people! They're from all over the place! Did you see all the license plates out in the parking lot? Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey. I'm all by myself out there! Um, what happened to the extra help we were supposed to be get?
That's not until the fourth of July! Between now and then it's you and me!
Ah, you know those eight guys in the fan-tail launch out there?
Well none of them are going to get out of the harbour alive.
Lenny, that's what I'm talking about. You know their first names! Talk to those clowns!
Everybody seems to be having a really good time today.
Tell me about it. Polly, I'll get back to you.
Listen, could you tell me how I could find chief Brody?
Who are you?
Matt Hooper. I'm from the, uh, Oceanographic Institute.
Oh for Christ's sakes! You're the guy we called. I'm Brody, I'm Brody!
Oh ho ho ho, very glad to meet you.
Yea I'm glad to meet you too!
Listen, I know you got a lot on your hands right now but uh...
What can we do for you?
Well I think the best thing for me to do is uh...see the remains of the first victim; the girl on the beach?
Okay fine. Just bear with me will ya?

Did Hooper's personality emerge during one of the later dialogue polishes, or maybe through ad-libbing during the shoot. I wish I knew. But the final product adds some zing to the revised draft.

Hooper plays a critical role to building momentum in the final version of the film. If you stopped reading my other ScriptWalk entry to pop over here and read this, follow this link back to that entry.

Otherwise, thanks for reading!

(Photo cribbed from All That Comes With It, though I'm guessing the copyright is owned by Paramount.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

ScriptWalk: Jaws

Hey kids, and Happy New Year.

I'm trying something new with my blog this year, something that I have decided to call "ScriptWalk," mostly because I think it sounds cool and as far as google can tell me, no one else is using the term.

Here's the idea: I take a screenplay and "walk" (eh? eh? see what I'm doing here?) through several key scenes, with a particular focus on how scenes change and grow between drafts or between the written page and the finished scene.

Before I get started, I want to disclaim that I don't consider myself the world's foremost expert on scripts and movie making. But for me, dissecting scripts like this is just really fun, and I think it's a useful way to improve my own writing. I also don't see a lot of other people doing this, so it seems like a good little niche to be in.

Without further ado, the inaugural script: Jaws.

ScriptWalk: Jaws

Jaws is one of those movies that I'll watch over and over again, any time, without hesitation. Seriously, if my house is ever on fire, I hope that Jaws isn't playing on the TV, because I'll just sit on the couch and slowly cook to death.

The storyline is almost insulting in its simplicity:

1: Shark eats beach-goers.
2: Guys go after shark.
3: Things go poorly.

The production had well more than its fair share of problems, but one of the biggest and earliest challenges was getting the script right.

The original drafts were written by Peter Benchley, who wrote the original novel that the movie was based on. After a few drafts, Benchley pulled out and Carl Gottlieb stepped in to do a polish on the dialogue. Instead of a mere polish, though, Gottlieb ended up doing a major rewrite of the entire script. In addition, John Milius did some further script polishing, and Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood also contributed. On top of that, there's still a little debate about who was responsible for the famous "Indianapolis" scene, but we'll get to that later.

Though the scripts aren't widely available online, I did manage to track down a pair of drafts through the magic of google. One is labeled as an early draft of the film, and the other is noted as being near-final.

I thought it would be fun and enlightening (or "funlightening") to compare a few scenes from these two drafts, to see how they changed during the rewriting process. Universal prefers that Jaws scripts not be posted online, so I won't post any direct links, but I will include a few brief excerpts for educational purposes. Where possible, I'll also embed links to the video from the final scenes, so you can see how the finished product looks.

Scene 1: Meet Sheriff Brody

The movie starts with a bang (or more of a "thump, scream, gurgle") with an attractive young girl skinny dipping straight into the maw of death. This scene is more or less the same in both drafts, although Gottlieb's rewrites add a little more clarity as to what's going on.

The next morning, we meet our hero, Martin Brody.

Let's take a look at how the early draft handles this intro:



  giving weather bulletin:  marina weather, westerly winds,
  light chop, etc.

  A pair of bumps under the bedsheets.  There is a rustling
  and two stockinged feet swing up and settle heavily on the
  floor.  Follow them as the pad along from hardwood floor
  to bathroom tile.  A light pops on and the feet arrive at a
  scale, board it.

 11 INSERT - SCALE DIAL       11

  In a blur it goes to 191.  Then, as if by magic, the numbers
  float backward to 160.

 12 ANGLE         12

  Martin Brody at forty-two, stands rigid, lifting himself
  from the sink counter-top with both hands.  Satisfied, he
  turns toward the mirror, squinting in the light, measuring
  himself up and down.  Advancing waistline, receding hairline.
  Gray around the ears.  Martin Brody makes another silent
  promise to get his act together -- tomorrow.

  He reaches for the sliding mirror and opens the medicine
  cabinet.  There is a travel brochure of Arizona attached
  to the shelf.  Brody shakes his head and removes it.  He
  closes the mirror which now reflects his wife, Ellen Brody,
  pert and poised off to one side.

      Martin.  Aren't you tired of Maine
      lobster, Long Island duckling and
      Ispwitch clams.  Just once couldn't
      go for a Big Mac at the bottom of
      the Grand Canyon this summer?

      Look at me, I'm not even awake.

      You've had no time off in two years,

      Living here is time off.

  Brody opens the shower door to turn on the water.  Ellen
  has scotch-taped a travel folder for exotic Mazatlan, Mexico
  on the shower head.


  Martin is getting dressed after his shower.  Ellen stands
  by the curtained window.

      Larry Vaughn says we'll pull a record
      season.  Ellen, we're collecting high
      enough rentals to cover the mortgage
      payments for all three of our beach-
      front investments.

      I know where we can invest in an Indian
      Chief Motor-home for the whole of August,
      drop it off in Aspen, Colorado and jet
      back to Boston by Labor Day.

  Ellen pulls from behind her back three brochures of trailer
  home rentals.

      Uh...look, Ellie.  Let's just ---

       (completes the
      -- play it by ear.

  Ellen turns to open the curtains.  Sunlight and ocean
  sparkle pour in.  A glorious view.

       (false happiness)
      Another shitty day in Paradise.

  The sunlight catches Brody's Police Chief badge as he slips
  on his shirt, and we discover why he can't go anywhere.


  Brody, ripping open a twenty-five pound bag of Kennel Ration
  as five hungry mutts somersault around his feet.  The tele-
  phone rings, and Brody one-hands it as he attempts to sow
  all five doggy bowls with missed double-helpings.

      Mornin' Hendricks.  What's what?

  He listens, sours, and takes a breath.

      First goddamn weekend of the summer...
      great start!
      No...take him back to the beach.
      Maybe she washed in.

So: What do we know about Brody? Let's review:
  • He's vain: The first thing he does in the morning is get out of bed, weigh himself, and then cheat the scale so it reads 30 pounds lighter. 
  • He's getting old: Paunchy, receding hairline, graying hair. 
  • He lives somewhere in New England: Hence all the local food references; Maine lobster, etc.
  • He works a lot: His wife, Ellen, wants a vacation. He's not biting. 
  • They've got roots: Brody hasn't had a day off in 2 years and the family owns 3 real estate properties. They're at least fairly well integrated into the community. 
  • He's a cop: He's got a sheriff's badge. 
  • They have five dogs: That's a lot of dogs. 
  • He knows the ropes: He gets a phone call, presumably about the girl who vanished the night before. He's annoyed, but not shocked, which implies that there's no evidence of the shark yet. Probably just some drowning, and Martin knows that she'll probably wash in to shore. 
Okay. So we've got a paunchy, overworked, dog-loving sheriff who works a lot, knows the town, and is familiar with the ins and outs of being a sheriff in a vacation resort town. He's married, but Ellen seems unhappy, wants a vacation, and it's an old argument between them.

We don't know if Brody has a kid, or kids. There's no indication that there are any kids in their lives, so it's tempting to assume it's just Martin and Ellen.

Let's also take a look at the seeds that get planted in this scene. We're still early in the film; the audience is going to be absorbing details, either consciously or unconsciously, to figure out what they're in for. What do we know about these characters? What's important to them? How do they feel about each other? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What will happen to them? What lies ahead?

Obviously, you're not going to get answers to all those questions crammed into a single scene so early in the movie, but you will get seeds of answers; little hints, clues, and bits of foreshadowing that will start pointing you in the right direction.

On some level, the audience is going to pick up on the details planted in this scene, and will either consciously or unconsciously want those details to pay off later in the movie. So if the writer emphasizes anything in this scene, he's essentially saying "Look at this. This will be important later. Don't forget it."

So what gets emphasized in this scene?
  • Ellen Brody really wants a vacation.
  • The Brodys own a lot of dogs.
  • Martin Brody is a cop who works too much.
  • The Brodys don't have a great relationship.
Now we're getting to the meat of the problem with this scene. Clues and hints are planted that will have absolutely no payoff later on. The Brodys' lack of vacation does not become a major plot point. At no time do Brodys' pack of dogs play a major role in the storyline. Martin and Brody do not have some sort of marital strife that comes to a head in the second act (although, it's worth noting that in Benchley's novel, Ellen does have an affair... with Matt Hooper. Try imagining that scene in the final film.)

Sheriff Brody's intro scene falls flat, with hints and foreshadowing that don't hint or foreshadow. So let's take a look at a later version of the same scene, after Gottlieb's rewrites:


  A shaft of morning sun blasts through the crack between the
  bottom of the shade and the windowsill, falling across the
  heads of the sleeping couple on the bed.  It catches Martin
  Brody right across the eyes, bringing him up from sleep.  The
  job is completed by the clock radio, which clicks on with
  local fisherman's report and weather.

        RADIO ANNCR (v.o.)
      Hayes Landing reports conditions
      good, with stripers and jacks.
      The Coast Guard has no storm warn-
      ing from Block Island to Cape
      Hatteras; a light chop with
      freshening winds, continued clear
      and mild....(etc.)

  Ellen Brody burrows her head under the covers, avoiding morn-
  ing for a few precious minutes more.

      How come the sun didn't used to
      shine in here?

      'cause when we bought the house it
      was Autumn.  This is summer.  Feed
      the dogs.

  We hear the scampering toenails of two cocker spaniels scrab-
  bling around the foot of the bed.  Brody swings out of bed,
  wearing shorts, socks, and tee shirt.


      Do you see the kids?

      Probably out in the back yard.

      In Amity, you say 'Yahd.'
       (she gives it
       the Boston sound)

      The kids are in the yahd, playing
      near the cah.  How's that sound?

      Like you're from N'Yawk.
       (gives it
       Brooklyn sound)

      Give me 30 years, I'll get it.

  He leads the dogs out of the bedroom and down to the kitchen.


  Brody enters, sets down some dog food, goes to make coffee,
  starts to fill kettle to boil water, the cold water rushes
  through and out the burnt-out bottom of the kettle.

      Did you burn another kettle?
      Y'know you're a fire hazard?
      This is the third one!

        ELLEN (o.s.)
      I never hear the whistle.

      Feed the dogs.

  Ellen Brody, a tall, attractive blonde woman, enters from up-
  stairs.  She's still slightly sleepy, not what you'd call an
  "Instant-On" person.  Mornings are not her best time.

      You want to go through those?
       (she indicates
       bag of clothes)
      I'm taking them to the Thrift
      Shop.  It's Marcia Vaughn's pet
      charity.  Pick out what you want
      to keep -- it's mostly your city

       (looking through
       bag, remembering)
      I used to wear this to the Garden.
      Garbage strikes.  Dog shit.  Mug-
       (he puts it all
      Ship it.

      Don’t be silly – You’re going to
      make summer better for them....

  Before Brody can answer, Michael, his oldest boy, enters,
  holding his hand.  There is bright new blood on it, but he
  is sensibly unconcerned.  It’s a normal childhood scrape.

      Cut my hand.  Hit by a vampire.

      On the swing?  I told you not to
      play near there until I sanded
      it down.
       (to Ellen)
      See what your son did?

      Go upstairs and bring Mommy a

  Michael goes on out and upstairs.  Ellen fumbles in her pocket
  and produces Brody’s new glasses, which she holds out to him.

      Don’t forget these.

      Oh, yeah.
       (he puts them on)
      How do I look?  Older, huh?

      I think they make you look sexy.

  Brody reacts to this, and bends to kiss her lightly.  Then
  more seriously.

      Sexy, hm?  What was I before?

      Older, sillier.

       (as he goes to make
       coffee, he fumbles
       with the new glasses)
      I don’t want to depend on these
      things, y’know – sometimes you
      can weaken your eyes.

  He looks out the window to the view beyond, discovering some
  new wonder in the fresh sunlit morning.


  Sean, the younger child, is happily romping in the summer
  air, enjoying the very air he breathes.

      Let’s see....

  The phone rings.

 13 INT. BRODY KITCHEN – DAY      13

  Brody answers one of two phones on the wall.

      Brody...yeah, what’s up...mmm...
      Well, what do they usually do,
      float or wash up?  Really?...okay,
      I’ll meet both of you at the
      beach in
       (checks watch)
      ...20 minutes, okay?  Okay.
       (hangs up)
      First goddam weekend of the summer.

  Michael reenters in bathing trunks, with a towel on his
  shoulder, his hand washed, holding a band-aid ready for
  application.  Ellen takes it, and bandages the finger with
  care and affection.

       (to Brody)
      What was that?

  Michael heads toward the beach.

       (struggling to get
       his shirt on over
       his glasses)
      The office.

  He gets his shirt on with Ellen’s help.  She flicks imaginary
  dust from the badge on his chest.

      Be careful.

      Here?  You gotta be kiddin’.

  He gives her a light kiss, starts to go, with his cup.

      Love ya.

       (kissing him back)
      Hey Chief.  Bring my cup back.

  At the door, he takes a windbreaker off a peg and goes on out.
  We can see the Amity Police shoulder patch as he goes to a
  van parked outside.

Okay, let's take a look at this revised scene. It's tempting to just say that it works better, but since this is much closer to the final product, we don't want to fall into the trap of just thinking something works because we're used to it. Is this really a better scene? And if so, why?

First, what do we learn about this incarnation of Martin Brody?
  • New in town: We establish from a couple of lines of exposition; the light changing since they bought the place last autumn, the line about the "cah" and the "yahd." Which brings us to...
  • From New York: Brody's a New Yorker. He sounds like he's from New York, he used to go the the Garden (Madison Square Garden, of course.) Which brings us to...
  • He came to Amity to escape the city: Brody looks at the bag of his old city clothes with disgust. He wants it all gone. Which brings us to...
  • He's a family man: A wife, two sons, and two dogs. He not only has two kids, but he cares about them enough to get them out of New York to grow up in a nice quiet place like Amity. 
  • He loves his wife: They have a great relationship. Good-natured teasing, affectionate, good chemistry. They have a comfortable, lived-in marriage. 
  • He's still a little worried about getting old: Instead of his weight and looks, Brody's aging here is signified by his new glasses.
  • He's Chief of Police, but he doesn't know the job yet: We know he's been in town only a few months, but to drive the point home, Brody doesn't tell his deputy on the phone that the body will wash up. He asks about it. He doesn't know the ropes yet. This is a hugely important part of his character, and a major engine for the plot, and it's planted neatly in just a couple lines of dialogue. 
That's a decent summary of what we learn about Brody. But Gottlieb's draft goes a step further, by planting hints and foreshadowing about the story itself. Such as:

  • Blood: The first time we meet Brody's older son, Michael, he's bleeding. That's not just some accidental detail; it does some real narrative work: 
    • The presence of Michael's bloody injury hints that even in this seemingly peaceful location, danger is lurking. Amity isn't as safe as it looks. 
    • The idea of blood will obviously be a big theme in the storyline, as sharks are drawn to blood. We'll see blood in the water during the shark's attack on Alex Kintner, we'll see fishermen using bloody chum to draw the shark out, blood will spill during the battle with the shark. The word "blood" is spoken or used as a description about 28 times in the script. This family scene on perfectly dry land is like the first rumble of thunder on the horizon. Blood is about to become a big part of these people's lives.
    • The fact that Michael is injured foreshadows the danger he faces in the saltwater pond. In fact, he's in real danger, not just symbolic danger, starting now
      • Here, he gets cut, exposing his shark-attracting blood. (Michael's joking line about getting attacked by a vampire is interesting. He could have easily said he just cut his hand on the swing, but instead says that he was attacked by a monster.)
      • He goes to get a band-aid, and comes back down in his swim trunks, clearly ready to hit the water, cut or no cut. The Brodys have no idea, but they just sent their son to play in shark-infested waters with an open wound.
      • Later, he sits in his birthday present - a boat - causing Brody (and then Ellen) to panic about his safety.
  • Danger: This ties into the idea of blood above; but goes a little further. 
    • Michael's injury on the swing/shark-baiting swim is a clear foreshadowing of Amity's dangerous side. 
    • We also have Ellen's warning to Martin: Be careful.
    • Martin jokes with Ellen being a fire hazard after she ruins a third teapot. It might be a stretch, but it's interesting that Martin mentions danger while water pours from the bottom of the kettle.
  • Blindness: Again, this will tie into "blood" and "danger" above, but we get the first hints that the people of Amity will be blind or oblivious to the danger that faces them:
    • The first time we see Brody, a beam of light hits him in the eyes, blinding him. Ellen instinctively buries her head under the covers. 
    • Ellen's response after Brody teases her about ruining another kettle: I never hear the whistle.
    • Ellen mentions Marcia Vaughn; the wife of Mayor Vaughn, who is the most willfully oblivious person in the entire town.
    • Brody's need for glasses, and his line about his eyes getting weak. After he puts on his glasses, he says "Let's see"  while watching Sean play outside.
    • After Ellen warns Brody to be careful, he dismisses the idea: Here? You gotta be kiddin.
While some of these might seem like a stretch, remember that they were all intentionally added to the later draft of the script. A scene that once did an okay job of introducing a character now introduces a character more fully while kicking off several major themes that will drive the rest of the story. If that's an accident, it's a damn happy one.

That's it for the first part of the Jaws ScriptWalk. Next time I'll tackle another major character introduction. You'll have to wait to see who. (Part 2 now posted online.)

(Jaws poster image copyright Universal Pictures. Intended for educational use only.)