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

via Jaws
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Susan Backlinie, who played the first victim in the 1975 film “Jaws,” has died at age 77.

Known for her role as Chrissie in the iconic shark attack scene, Backlinie was a nationally ranked swimmer and stunt performer who director Steven Spielberg chose for her water skills.

“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 said previously. “So, I went to stunts to find her, and Susan was up to the challenge.”

She described how cables were used to pull her between pilings as men ran back and forth to simulate a shark attack for the memorable scene filmed off Martha’s Vineyard.

“The first thing [Spielberg] said to me was, ‘When your scene is done, I want everyone under the seats with the popcorn and bubblegum,'” Backlinie said in 2017. “So, I think we did that.”

“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,” Backlinie said in 2023. “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.”

While rumors of a broken rib were untrue, Backlinie said filming was extremely grueling from dawn to dusk.

“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,” she said.

In addition to “Jaws,” she had a handful of other movie and television roles as a stunt performer throughout her career.

Her husband of 30 years said her death from a heart attack was unexpected, calling her the most amazing person he had ever known.

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

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