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Robert Shaw had to reshoot his Jaws speech because he got too drunk

Robert Shaw thought it would be a good idea to really get drunk before delivering his famous USS Indianapolis speech, but it was in fact a terrible idea

Robert Shaw in Jaws

Steven Spielberg‘s Jaws is known for many, many things – its absolutely iconic instantly-recognisable score, memorable lines such as; “we’re gonna need a bigger boat,” the famous dolly zoom on Roy Scheider on the beach, and the fantastic chemistry between the three leads. But its most well-known scene is probably Robert Shaw’s legendary USS Indianapolis monologue.

The monologue is based on the real-life sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945. We’ve all seen the scene, which takes place on board Quint’s boat – the Orca. All three men – Quint (Robert Shaw), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Brody (Roy Scheider) are very drunk and have been comparing war wounds.

According to an interview that Steven Spielberg gave in 2011, Shaw wanted to bring authenticity to the scene by actually getting drunk. “We shot it twice. the first time we attempted to shoot it Robert came over to me and said, ‘You know, Steven, all three of these characters have been drinking and I think I could do a much better job in this speech if you actually let me have a few drinks before I do the speech.’ And I unwisely gave him permission.”

Spielberg continues; “I guess he had more than a few drinks because two crew members actually had to carry him onto the Orca and help him into his chair. I had two cameras on the scene and we never got through the scene, he was just too far gone. So I wrapped.”

“At about 2 o’clock in the morning my phone rings and it’s Robert. He had a complete blackout and had no memory of what had gone down that day. He said, ‘Steven, tell me I didn’t embarrass you.’ He was very sweet, but he was panic-stricken. He said, ‘Steven, please tell me I didn’t embarrass you. What happened? Are you going to give me a chance to do it again?’ I said, ‘Yes, the second you’re ready we’ll do it again.’”

“The next morning he came to the set, he was ready at 7:30am and out of make-up. It was like watching Olivier on stage. We did it in probably four takes. I think we were all watching a great performance and the actors on camera were watching a great performance; Roy and Richard.”

It turns out that one of the greatest scenes in cinema history didn’t actually need any lubricant to get going. If you’re a fan of Jaws – and who isn’t? – check out our guide to the best monster movies.