Quint: My Favorite Film Character
Quint is one of the main characters from my favorite film of all time, JAWS. Quint is portrayed by the brilliant Robert Shaw, and it’s my all time favorite performance. Whenever someone asks me who’s my favorite character in cinema, my immediate answer is Quint.
Like I said, JAWS is my favorite film of all time. I wrote a whole piece devoted to why it’s my favorite film and it was the first piece on this site. I’d suggest reading it if you want to know more. Basically, it’s one of the first films I’ve watched and it has stuck with me since. Quint is the best character in the film. His character helps elevate the film into a whole other level.
Robert Shaw is my favorite actor and his portrayal of Quint is my favorite performance of all time. He exhibits some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. He embodies the character so perfectly. What fascinates me is the fact that he was the third or fourth choice for the role. After Spielberg’s first few choices turned down the role, it was producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown that suggested Shaw after working with him on The Sting (1973), which is another favorite film of mine. Shaw was brought on late into production with no pay since he owed the IRS money, and he still gave it his all. In the book. In the book JAWS by Peter Benchley, Quint was a Captain Ahab rip-off. He was a bland character. In the film, all of Quint’s eccentric behaviors and little quips were improvised by Shaw. Shaw commands the screen every time he’s shown. He is quite literally a scene stealer. I can tell that Shaw had a blast playing Quint, which makes it even better. It’s a brilliant performance. The fact that he wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar is criminal!
Quint’s introduction is iconic. I love how he gets everyone’s attention. He scratches his nails on the chalkboard, causing everyone in the room to turn towards his direction. I love the way the camera slowly pans towards him as he delivers an awesome monologue:
“Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, Chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”
I love how Quint is such an eccentric character. I love the songs he sings and his weird snappy quotes. Here are some of my favorite examples:
“Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies.
Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain
For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston.
And so nevermore shall we see you again”
“Here lies the body of Mary Lee; died at the age of a hundred and three. For fifteen years she kept her virginity; not a bad record for this vicinity.”
“Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women.”
I love the scene where Brody and Hooper visit Quint and to ask him for his help. We see his shack and his way of life. His place has shark jaws all over his walls. I love his boat, the ORCA. What an icon. I love the design and how it looks so worn out. I can only imagine the mileage on that thing. It fits the character so well.
The best scene in the whole film is the USS Indianapolis scene. Shaw’s performance is haunting. The way he tells the horrific true story always puts chills down my spine. Shaw even wrote his own version of the monologue once he got the script. You can feel his emotions leap off the screen. He’s hiding so much behind his eyes. In my opinion, it was the greatest monologue in cinema history.
The only real backstory we get for his character is in that scene. We find out he was in the Navy and helped deliver the Hiroshima bomb. The haunting look on his face tells us all we need to know about his horrific experience. Quint has been through a lot and I think fishing and hunting sharks is what keeps him going. Instead of running away from his fear, he takes it heads on. He becomes an expert with the confidence of knowing he can take down the great white killer shark. His obsession, unfortunately, is responsible for his demise.
Quint’s death is both tragic and poetic. While I wish he survived, his death makes sense for the film. It’s by far the most disturbing scene in the film. The shark leaping onto the boat and cracking it in half, causing Quint to slide down into its mouth. The jaws of the beast slamming shut into his waist. The blood spurting from his mouth as he screams with pain. It’s graphic yet fitting, ironically. The film plays it off so well.
There’s many reasons why JAWS is named one of the greatest films of all time. Robert Shaw’s performance as Quint is one of those reasons why. His performance is legendary and the character of Quint is an icon. He will always be my favorite film character of all time.