The story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II and the horrifying shark ordeal continues to intrigue Hollywood, 60 years after hundreds of men perished in the event.
Warner Bros. and Robert and Susan Downey are tackling the incident through a modern lens, looking at it through the eyes of Hunter Scott, the 11-year old boy who embarked on a journey to exonerate the Indianapolis’ court-martialed captain.
Warners has picked up the life rights to Scott and has set Robert Schenkkan, a Emmy-nominated writer for his work on HBO’s acclaimed World War Two-set mini-series The Pacific, to write the script for the untitled true-life project. Schenkkan is working from a story by the Downeys, who are also producing via their Warners-based Team Downey banner.
In 1996, Scott was an 11-year old looking for a subject for a national History Day competition when he watched Jaws and was inspired by the scene of Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint recalling the Indianapolis ordeal. That got Scott researching the topic, finding out how the warship was sunk by torpedoes and how for five days its stranded crew was slowly eaten by the finned meat-eaters.
Scott heard from survivors how the captain, Charles McVay, was unjustly court-martialed, and set out to correct the miscarriage of justice, eventually testifying before Congress. He was eventually instrumental in getting legislation passed in October 2000 to exonerate McVay, who committed suicide in 1968, and in July 2001, the U.S. Navy amended his record.
Schenkkan has the chops to tackle the story. In addition to his work on Pacific, he is currently writing the seven-hour mini-series America: In the King Years, the adaptation of the Taylor Branch book series from HBO and Oprah Winfrey. He also co-wrote the 2002 Phillip Noyce-directed thriller The Quiet American.
Jon Berg is overseeing the untitled Hunter Scott project for Warners. David Gambino is shepherding for Team Downey.
Not only has the Indianapolis sinking been found to be screen-worthy, Scott’s story too has been Hollywood bait. J.J. Abrams tried to bring the story to the screen via Universal but the project was put into turnaround in the late 2000s.