Susan Backlinie, first shark victim in Jaws, dies at 77 – WFTV

Actress Susan Backlinie, a swimmer and stuntwoman who played the young nude swimmer who became the first shark victim in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 epic film “Jaws,” died Saturday. She was 77.

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Backlinie died at her home in Ventura, California, her congressional agent Matthew Templeton told The Daily Jaws website.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Backlinie was a nationally recognized swimmer, professional diver and former mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs when she was cast as Chrissie Watkins in the opening scene of Jaws as a 28-year-old.

“It is with deep regret that we confirm that our beloved Susan passed away this morning,” Templeton said in a statement. “We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their condolences. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

“I didn’t want an actor to do that. “I wanted a stunt person because I needed someone who was great in the water, who knew water ballet and knew how to take what I thought would be a whole lot of violent shaking,” Spielberg said in Laurent Bouzereau’s book 2023: “Spielberg: The First Ten Years.” “So I went to Stunts to find her, and Susan was up to the challenge.”

“The first thing (Spielberg) said to me was, ‘When your scene is done, I want everyone under the seats with popcorn and gum,'” Backlinie said in a 2017 interview.

She succeeded. Because of this opening scene, many people refused to swim in the sea again.

Backlinie was born on September 1, 1946 in Ventura and appeared in other films such as “Animal Day” in 1977, “1941” in 1979 and “The Great Muppet Caper” in 1981, according to On television, she appeared as a guest star on “The Quest” and “The Fall Guy.”

In “1941,” she parodied her role in “Jaws,” playing a skinny-dipper surprised by a Japanese submarine.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Backlinie and her family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida when she was 10. She was a cheerleader and state swimming champion at Forest Hill High School in West Palm Beach and won the Class A 500-yard freestyle title in 1962, according to Florida High School Athletic Association championship archives. The following year, she was part of the 200-yard medley team that won the Class 2A state title for the Falcons.

After graduating in 1964, she attended nursing school for a year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Backlinie and her husband Harvey lived on a houseboat in Ventura, the entertainment news website reported.