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.)