Movie Monologue Monday – Robert Shaw in Jaws


I love a great movie monologue. There are many differences between film acting and theatre acting, but I still learn quite a bit from them.

There were some great responses when I asked “What’s your favourite movie monologue?” on our Facebook page that pointed me to speeches I’ve never seen before. I thought it would be fun to look at one each week, pick it apart and figure out what makes it tick.

One of my all-time favourites is Robert Shaw’s USS Indianapolis speech from Jaws.

The two major learning points for me from this monologue are Let the audience do some of the work and Play the opposite.

“Let the audience do some of the work” is a variation/extension of “less is more.” Notice how Quint doesn’t re-enact his story. He doesn’t do any actions, he doesn’t re-live the experience, he tells his story and lets you, the audience, picture it for yourself. Spielberg doesn’t cut to visuals of the attack, he stays on Quint and asks the viewer to imagine the horrific picture in his or her own mind. There’s also very little underscoring, just a hint.

Play the opposite – notice how he smiles and chuckles to himself when he says, “No distress signal had been sent.” That’s a horrific thing to say – all those men floating in the open ocean with no distress signal, but his laugh gives it more weight, takes it to another level, as does the smirk at the end.

Also notice how still the scene is. He’s describing a shark frenzy where hundreds of men are dying and that camera does not move.

So, yeah, I love this piece. It’s unflinching and Shaw delivers big time.

What’s your favourite movie monologue?

About the author

Craig Mason