Robert Downey, Jr. Producing Film About Sinking Of The USS Indianapolis

To movie fans, the WWII sinking of the USS Indianapolis is a familiar tale. Robert Shaw's gruff, poetic account of the ship's fate — and of the shark-infested waters into which the crew plunged after torpedoes broke the ship into pieces — is one of the crowning moments in Jaws. It's one of the enduring film monologues, period. Want to see grown men cry? Play Shaw's speech a couple times.

There is a newish wrinkle in the story of the Indianapolis, however, as in 1996 a young boy, inspired by Jaws, set out to exonerate Captain Charles McVay, who had been court-martialed for his role in the ship's sinking. The boy was successful, and five years later the Captain's record was amended. Now Robert Downey, Jr. and Susan Downey will produce a film with Warner Bros. about the boy's efforts to clear the name of Captain McVay.

THR says that Robert Schenkkan, a writer on The Pacific, will script the film based on 11-year old Hunter Scott's efforts to research and exonerate Captain McVay. Scott interviewed over a hundred survivors of the ship's sinking and ultimately testified before Congress, after which Captain McVay's record was changed.

So what happened in the waters not far from Guam on July 30, 1945? It is well established that, after the USS Indianapolis had delivered the components for the first atomic bomb, a Japanese sub fired six torpedoes at the ship, two of which hit and sank her. 1196 men were on board; 300 were taken down with the ship and 900 went into the water in the twelve minutes before she sank. They were in the water for five days, and by the time a full rescue had been implemented there were only 316 survivors. recounts that "it did not become known until the early 1990s that – despite knowledge of the danger in its path – naval authorities at Guam had sent the Indianapolis into harm's way without any warning, refusing her captain's request for a destroyer escort, and leading him to believe his route was safe."

There are conflicting reports of a distress signal actually being sent, and reportedly Naval intelligence intercepted a Japanese message reporting the sinking of the Indianapolis, but ignored it. Captian McVay was court-martialed regardless — the first Captain to face changes after more than 350 other ships had been lost in the war.

So this will be a difficult story to tel on several levels — in addition to the horrifying story of the hundreds of men who perished due to sharks, wounds and exposure, there is the complex tale of possible Naval malfeasance.

This is the latest of many efforts to fully tell the tale of the Indianapolis on film; Barry Levinson and Mel Gibson were once going to make a film, and Richard Kelly and J.J. Abrams have tried to make their own films. This could be the first since the '71 TV film Mission of the Shark to tell the ship's tragic story.