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.)