Susan Backlinie, The First Victim Of The Shark In ‘Jaws,’ Passed Away At 77 

According to Steven Spielberg, he required a skilled swimmer and stuntman who “knew how to endure what I imagined was going to be a whole lot of violent shaking.” Susan Backlinie, the stuntwoman and actress who became the shark’s first victim in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as a young, skinny-dipper out for a nocturnal swim off the coast of Amity Island, passed away.

Susan Backlinie
Source: cbs News

Cause Of Death

She was seventy-seven. Backlinie passed away on Saturday at her Ventura, California, home, according to Matthew Templeton, her convention agent, who spoke with The Daily Jaws website.

When Backlinie was cast as the skinny-dipping Chrissie in Universal’s Jaws (1975), she was a nationally ranked swimmer and professional diver who had also worked as an animal trainer and as a mermaid. Backlinie was 28 years old at the time. I refused to have an actor perform it.

According to Laurent Bouzereau’s 2023 book Spielberg: The First Ten Years, Spielberg stated, “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.” “I decided to go to stunts to find her, and Susan was game.”

Backlinie stated in a 2017 interview with The Palm Beach Post, “The first thing [Spielberg] said to me was, ‘When your scene is done, I want everyone under the seats with the popcorn and bubblegum.'” According to the director’s account in Bouzereau’s book: “She was wearing a harness.

About Susan Backlinie

It contained two eye rings and wires leading to two beachside stakes [about fifty yards away]. They essentially dragged Susan with five crew members on one side and five crew members on the other. When the ribbon reached one of the stakes, they had to stop pulling, and the opposing team took over and pulled in the opposite direction. The ribbon was suspended from the wire.

Backlinie was born on September 1, 1946, and when she was ten years old, her family relocated from Washington to West Palm Beach, Florida. She was a cheerleader and a state swimming champion at Forest Hill High School. She spent a year in nursing school following her graduation in 1964.

She worked with exotic animals in Miami at Ivan Tors Studios, the home of Flipper on NBC, and swam like a mermaid at the Weeki Wachee Springs tourist attraction in Florida, according to the Post. She performed on stage with Gentle Ben, the bear who would co-star with Dennis Weaver and Clint Howard on the 1967–1969 CBS sitcom, while on a national tour with Tors.

When Jaws crew members discovered Backlinie, she was in Canada doing location work with a tiger. “If you use me, you could get close-ups during the stunt itself,” she said to Spielberg. An actress will have to cover her face if you use one. She resided on a houseboat in Ventura with her spouse, Harvey.

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