Jaws Star Susan Backlinie Has Died

Susan Backlinie Dead: The Jaws star has passed away aged 77.
Credit: Universal Pictures

Susan Backlinie, star of the iconic movie Jaws, has tragically passed away.

Jaws is a classic thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg released in 1975. It’s based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name.

The story revolves around a giant man-eating great white shark that terrorises the small community of Amity Island.

The local police chief, played by Roy Scheider, a marine biologist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, and a professional shark hunter, played by Robert Shaw, team up to hunt down the shark and protect the islanders.

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Jaws is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and is credited with establishing the summer blockbuster phenomenon.

According to Guinness World Records, this occurred when people queued up around the block to see the movie, and it became the first film to earn $100 million at the box office.

The movie is a classic piece of cinema that we still enjoy today.

But now, news that one of the film’s stars has passed away has left the internet heartbroken.

Jaws is a classic in film history. Credit: Universal Pictures

Susan Backlinie’s name may not be immediately recognisable to all, but her contribution to cinema is undoubtedly iconic.

She is best known for her role as the opening victim in Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking thriller, Jaws.

Backlinie’s portrayal of Chrissie Watkins, the young woman attacked by a menacing great white shark, set the tone for one of film history’s most suspenseful and memorable openings.

Born on September 1, 1946, in Ventura, California, Backlinie, 77, initially pursued a career as a stuntwoman and actress.

Her work in Jaws marked a pivotal moment in her career, propelling her into the spotlight and cementing her legacy in the annals of cinematic history.

In Jaws, Backlinie’s character, Chrissie, becomes the first victim of the film’s antagonist, a massive great white shark.

The harrowing scene, which takes place during a late-night swim, is among the scariest in the movie – largely thanks to Backlinie’s visceral performance.

Susan Backlinie in Jaws (1975).
Susan Backlinie’s character in Jaws becomes the first victim of the film’s antagonist. Credit: Universal Pictures

Although her appearance in Jaws was relatively brief, Backlinie’s performance left a lasting impression.

Despite an ongoing urban legend, her cries of distress in the opening scene weren’t a result of any injury from the harness that yanked her around, per IMDb.

However, it is reported that nobody informed Backlinie about the impending submersion in water, aiming for an authentic reaction from her.

In the documentary Jaws: The Inside Story, Spielberg called Backlinie’s sequence ‘one of the most dangerous’ stunts he’s ever directed.

“She was actually being tugged left and right by 10 men on one rope and 10 men on the other back to the shore, and that’s what caused her to move like that,” he said, per NME.

Backlinie told The Palm Beach Post in 2015 that Spielberg told her: “When your scene is done, I want everyone under the seats with the popcorn and bubblegum.

“I think we did that.”

Susan Backlinie
Fans have been left heartbroken by the news of Susan Backlinie’s death. Credit: Alamy

Beyond Jaws, Backlinie continued to work in film and television, albeit in less high-profile roles.

She appeared in several other movies, including Day of the Animals (1977), and another Spielberg-directed film, 1941 (1979).

In addition to her acting career, Backlinie has also made appearances at various fan conventions and events, where she has interacted with fans of Jaws and shared insights into her experience filming the movie.

But this week, it’s been heartbreakingly announced that Backlinie has passed away.

People have been left bereft by the news.

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One fan writes: “Thanks to her wonderful acting and stunt performance, she gave us one of the most iconic opening sequences in any film. She will be missed.”

“Still traumatised by that scene. RIP,” another agrees.

A third adds: “Susan was amazing in Jaws, she really sold that opening scene of the shark attack. Rest in peace.”

While a fourth pens: “How fantastic to be remembered for such an iconic scene in movie history though.”

Backlinie died on Saturday morning at her California home, the actress’s agent Sean Clark confirmed to The New York Times and Variety.

News of Backlinie’s death was confirmed by her husband, Harvey Swindall, who tells Fox News that she died from a heart attack and that her passing was ‘very unexpected’.

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

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Written by Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a content editor at IGV who specialises in trending, lifestyle and entertainment news. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a degree in English Literature. Annie has previously worked with organisations such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Harvard University, the Pulitzer Prize and 22 Words.