Today, in 1804, Stephen Decatur led a small band in a ketch to destroy a warship. Horatio Nelson is said to have called it “the most bold and daring act of the age.”
Well, I can’t verify Nelson having said that, but if he did then he was blockading Toulon at the time.
What we can verify is that the USS Philadelphia wasn’t really captured in the first place, it got stuck on a coral reef and its captain surrendered. Its Captain, William Bainbridge, is repeatedly quoted as having been a large man, six foot tall and heavily built, who also surrendered to the French.
Commodore Preble (the US didn’t have admirals at the time, the word seemed too aristocratic) said that it would have been more honorable if the crew had vowed to die fighting. He concluded that courage might have saved them.
Well, Stephen Decatur was the kind of man who would die fighting.
Supposedly, a film is underway about the Tripolitan War, to be directed by Ridley Scott. Will it be about Decatur? Or about Eaton? Will it feature the burning of the Philadelphia?
There are so many great scenes in that war that play in my head like a film. Personally, if I were making it though, I wouldn’t choose Scott. I’d choose an American director, and one who likes to read screenplays.
I loved Gladiator and other films by Scott, but they were very stylised. I think Decatur would benefit more from a literalist, like Speilburg (or Hitchcock if it had to be a Brit).
So, what did Decatur do at the Philadelphia? Well, that’s another story.
Anyway, I think Bruce Willis should play Eaton, or maybe Vin Diesel. They have that same kind of attitude, without being too large to be believable.
For Decatur? We need casting. Russel Crowe is far too old, and so are most of the stars out there.
And for the music? “Stuck in the mud” would work for the capture. “The Roof is on fire” for the destruction. If you want an old-timer, Tina Turner’s music might work.