Sunday, May 26, 2024

Susan Backlinie, first victim in ‘Jaws’ film, dead at 77

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Susan Backlinie, famously known as the first victim in the 1975 film “Jaws,” has died, Fox News Digital can confirm.

Her husband of 30 years, Harvey Swindall, said death was “very unexpected.” She died at their California home on Saturday morning from a heart attack. She was 77.

“[She] was the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life. And I’ve never loved anybody like her,” Swindall said.

Susan Backlinie, famous for being the first victim in “Jaws,” passed away in her home on Saturday morning. (Everett Collection)

Backlinie earned the role of Chrissie in Steven Spielberg’s film not only for her enviable looks but also because she was a nationally ranked swimmer who had worked as a mermaid and animal trainer after graduating from high school in 1964.

“I didn’t want an actor to do it. I wanted a stuntperson because I needed somebody who was great in the water, who knew water ballet and knew how to endure what I imagined was going to be a whole lot of violent shaking,” Spielberg recounted in Laurent Bouzereau’s book “Spielberg: The First Ten Years,” per the Hollywood Reporter. “So, I went to stunts to find her, and Susan was up to the challenge.”

Susan Backlinie sitting on the sand split walking on the sand behind the scenes of "Jaws"

Susan Backlinie, pictured on the set of “Jaws,” was hired because of her previous swimming experience. (Getty Images)


In an interview with the Palm Beach Post in 2017, Backlinie spoke about Spielberg’s vision for what has now become an iconic scene.

“The first thing [Spielberg] said to me was, ‘When your scene is done, I want everyone under the seats with the popcorn and bubblegum,'” she said. “So, I think we did that.”

Susan Backlinie in a black top smiles for a photo with her hair in a braid

Susan Backlinie was hired for the role in part due to her strong swimming skills. (Bobby Bank/Getty Images)


While appearing on “The Morning X with Barnes & Leslie” show last year, Backlinie described in her own words how they captured that moment in the water.

“What they did was there were some pilings about 50 yards out on the beach, and they ran cables all the way from the beach out to the pilings in two shifts, and then they put me between the two pilings, and they had guys on the beach, about five or six on each cable,” she explained. “We marked lines on the beach, and they would pull me right to the edge of the frame on either side. And the guys just ran back and forth from mark to mark,” she said of the Martha’s Vineyard set.

Backlinie also refuted a rumor that she’d broken a rib while filming but admitted it was an extremely grueling process.

“We would film from anywhere from 6 to 7 in the morning till 9 because of the light. … I was home and exhausted at the end of the day.”

Susan Backlinie in a light teal sweater smiles for a photo

Susan Backlinie described how the crew filmed her iconic death scene in “Jaws.” (Bobby Bank/Getty Images)


Backlinie appeared in a handful of movies, often as a stunt performer. She was also in some television shows.

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