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Susan Backlinie, Swimmer Who Was First Victim in ‘Jaws,’ Dies at 77

Susan Backlinie, Swimmer Who Was First Victim in ‘Jaws,’ Dies at 77


The actress and stunt girl Susan Backlinie, whose portrayal of a violent loss of life as the primary shark assault sufferer within the opening scene of the blockbuster film “Jaws” terrified moviegoers, died on Saturday. She was 77.

Ms. Backlinie died at her house in California, her agent, Sean Clark, mentioned on Sunday. He mentioned she had a coronary heart assault.

“Jaws,” the 1975 film directed by Steven Spielberg, memorably options Ms. Backlinie in a scene through which she performed a skinny-dipper, Chrissie Watkins, who runs alongside the seaside and dives into the water for a nighttime swim.

The placid scene is shattered as she is out of the blue pulled below the water. She screams whereas being violently thrashed by an unseen nice white shark and tries desperately to cling to a clanging buoy solely to be pulled under the water one remaining time.

For the scene, Ms. Backlinie was secured to a harness, based on The Daily Jaws web site. The Palm Beach Post reported that Ms. Backlinie was carrying a pair of denims with metallic plates stitched into the perimeters with cables hooked up.

“To create the impact of being pulled via the water, Susan was tethered to a line anchored to the ocean flooring beneath her and intentionally left unaware of when she could be submerged initially, aiming to elicit a extra genuine shock from her,” The Daily Jaws reported.

In an interview with The Post in 2017, Ms. Backlinie recalled Mr. Spielberg telling her, “When your scene is completed, I need everybody below the seats with the popcorn and bubble gum.”

She mentioned, “I believe we did that.”

In “Jaws: The Inside Story” documentary, Mr. Spielberg described the sequence as “one of the crucial harmful” stunts.

“She was truly being tugged left and proper by 10 males on one rope and 10 males on the opposite again to the shore, and that’s what brought on her to maneuver like that,” he mentioned.

The actor Richard Dreyfuss, who starred within the film because the oceanographer Matt Hooper, defined within the documentary how Ms. Backlinie and Mr. Spielberg added to the phobia of the scene by later recording her screams.

Mr. Spielberg “had her tilt her head again and he poured water down her throat whereas she screamed, which is now often known as waterboarding,” Mr. Dreyfuss mentioned.

Ms. Backlinie labored with Mr. Spielberg once more within the 1979 parody warfare movie “1941” through which she spoofed her “Jaws” character by taking a late-night swim. As the suspenseful rating from “Jaws” performed, she encountered the rising periscope of a Japanese submarine as an alternative of a shark.

At age 10, Ms. Backlinie lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., the place she swam for miles off the coast and in native swimming pools, The Post reported. In highschool, she was a cheerleader and a state freestyle swimming champ.

She carried out as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, a vacationer attraction on Florida’s west coast, and finally moved to California.

Ms. Backlinie, who was born on Sept. 1, 1946, is survived by her husband, Harvey Swindall, based on Mr. Clark.

After “Jaws,” she continued to work in movies, showing within the horror film “Day of the Animals” (1977), and as a water ballet performer in Jim Henson’s “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981). She additionally appeared in an episode of the stunt tv collection “The Fall Guy” in 1982.

But it was the opening scene of “Jaws” for which she could be greatest remembered.

In The Post interview, she recalled how followers who attended film conventions talked to her about their worry of swimming due to that scene.

“One of the primary feedback I get from everyone is, ‘You know you stored me out of the water,’” she mentioned.

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