I recently met with actor/musician/writer/talented movie production guy Chris Budziszewski, who has expressed an extreme interest in playing the role of Carter in The Ocean. One thing Chris and I discussed was Carter’s background — where he came from, major events in his life, where he would go after the movie concludes (spoiler: If he survived) — basically, a bunch of stuff that will not be known to the audience but will help the actor playing Carter shape his personality, emotions and reactions.
So I thought I’d take some time and explain who my characters are, in detail. Today I will be discussing Carter, obviously.
IN THE FILM
Carter, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, is the antagonist — a vicious, psychotic, remorseless villain, who resorts to cannibalism to save his own neck. He manipulates the circumstances of the situation to suit his own agenda — at the cost of his shipmates, his dignity and humanity. Carter is extremely intelligent and arrogant and his objective behavior is a strong indication that he is attempting to control the situation and his victim(s).
Carter grooms his fellow survivor over the course of the story; forcing Bowman to sacrifice pieces of his flesh for small amounts of water. Carter has no problem consuming human flesh — even reveling in the experience of taking advantage of someone.
Throughout the course of the film, we see Carter become more ruthless in his demands — asking for more flesh, more body parts. This monster-like characteristic that Carter sort of skirts the edges of is fully imprinted onto his personality by the time we reach the climax. At this point, Carter is not so much a man any longer, but a representation of evil and darkness — the kinds that only exist in the deepest parts of the human psyche.
Now to delve into Carter’s make-up, not explicitly mentioned in the story.
The inspiration for Carter actually came from trying to picture myself in his situation — not that I am a psychopath — but in terms of how far one would go to survive. I don’t know how far I would go to survive. I don’t think I would resort to cannibalism, but I can imagine, it might be fine line between life and death. So I pushed Carter past this line and took it from there.
The most important part of Carter’s character — which enables him to behave the way he does — is his complete lack of remorse. Carter is a psychopath. I removed his ability to feel remorse and regret, leaving him aloof — as if he is watching his involvement play out from some distant vantage. Like a general sitting atop a hill, far from the trenches of the conflict, Carter looks at every situation as a battle to be won. He often needs to have the last word — defining the argument in his way — owning the situation.
Carter does not see himself as evil. Nor does he see what he is doing and what he has done as particularly bad. He taunts Bowman throughout the story but only as a means to break him down. Carter’s real sadism comes from his ignorance and lack of acknowledgement that his actions are in fact amoral. He maintains that everything he is doing is an effort to survive and that his survival is more important than the survival of his shipmate. Like all psychopaths, Carter’s delusions of grandeur allow him to elevate himself above all others — and it is because of this that he sees Bowman as more of a resource than a companion, or human being.
If you’ve read this far — then you obviously care quite a bit about who Carter is. Most of the information below is not in the screenplay, but has been written for the benefit of creating a realistic character.
Carter was born the day JFK died in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his first years of life he missed every single developmental milestone a normal infant has. His biological father physically abused his mother on a daily basis for over a year before she summed up enough courage to flee Indiana for Kansas City, Missouri, where Carter would spend until his early 20s.
Carter remember watching the moon landing at the age of six and feeling nothing — an attitude that would persist throughout the rest of his life. In elementary school he was a nobody, neither fitting in nor standing out as a loner. In high school, he learned to imitate social behavior by anticipating the required reactions to any given social occurrence rather than understand what the reactions meant. This method allowed Carter to adapt, like camouflage, to any group, clique or lifestyle he desired. He did not go to college to learn, but to give the appearance that he was learning. He did not work to further his career, but because working was the social norm. He neither liked nor disliked his station in life. But once immersed in a situation he chose, he became the best, the most, the top of whatever he aimed for.
It is was this pursuit that led him to enlist in the navy when he learned that an individual in one circle of friends had signed up.
Carter’s mother remarried shortly after the move to Kansas City; his new father operated the garment factory he describes in the screenplay. As a salesperson for his father, Carter could use his tactics of lies and deceit to move large quantities of goods into the market. Since he sees every opportunity as one to conquer, Carter uses bluffing tactics to get what he wants. In his sales roll, this may have involved inflating the value of his merchandize, distorting reports, moving money around to various accounts to simulate growth or even selling quantities of products that do not exist (the repercussions of which would fall onto the company, not him).
After enlisting in the United States Navy and training in Illinois, Carter enrolled in the Officer Development School with a focus on medicine. In what his superiors described as a ‘strong stomach’ for treating injuries was really just the distancing tactic Carter had been teaching himself his whole life: Seeing other human beings as resources — objects.
Carter graduated as an Ensign and earned his first promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade while serving with the Seventh Fleet, a forward-deployed fleet at Yokosuka, Japan. It was during the Peacetime Exercises of 1989 where Carter earned his second promotion, to Lieutenant, for demonstrating outstanding knowledge of human physiology and emergency response protocol.
Carter has never been disciplined or reprimanded for any negative or disgraceful activity while in service. His record reads like a textbook — like there is not even a real person attached to it. He earned a temporary leave from service to attend his mother’s funeral in late 1989. His mother was killed in a traffic accident during a freak snowstorm outside of Kansas City. An emotionless Carter buried his mother without even a word of respect in her honor. Most would chalk it up to deep sadness.
While on leave, Carter was able to connect with old friends and lovers. He even had a brief affair with two women, promising each of them a future together. The women did not know each other and Carter did not see what he was doing as being wrong. He did not see is words as being misgiving, because there was never any truth behind them. What he was saying meant nothing to him because of distancing — he wasn’t even really there — in his mind — just operating himself like a marionette.
Carter returned to the Seventh Fleet at Guam in early 1990 where he was positioned on board the USS Frank Cable, a submarine tender. Shortly thereafter, and fictionally speaking, the USS Frank Cable experienced a massive engine fire that resulted in the sinking of the vessel at night on its way back to port Apra Habor, Guam. An unknown number of the roughly 1,300 crew members aboard evacuated the ship before sinking. Carter was pulled from the water by Bowman, marking the first occasion the two characters met.
IF CARTER LIVED
Sometimes I ask myself what if Carter was the one who survived at the end of The Ocean? Would he be rescued? Would he tell the truth of what happened? If he told the truth would be be imprisoned or forgiven? Would he skew the truth to foster sympathy for his plight?
The truth is, if Carter lived, he would have eaten Bowman, no doubt. If Carter was rescued, his testimony would leave Bowman out — and any mention of cannibalism. Remember, Carter is trying to fly under the radar. He does not want to draw attention to any detail being hidden. Rather than elaborate or lie, he simply nips various aspects of a story in the bud — erasing them entirely from existence.
Carter is a master at controlling people and circumstances. Reshaping reality — the reality as others understand it — is his way of maintaining complete control, because he will be the only one with an idea of the complete picture; a power he cannot, by design, relinquish.