First victim in Jaws has died aged 77

By John Mercury May 13, 2024

The swimmer who was the first victim in the 1975 blockbuster Jaws has died. 

Susan Backlinie died in her home in California at the age of 77, according to her agent. Her death was first reported by The Daily Jaws website.

The opening scene of Steven Spielberg‘s classic features Ms Backlinie running along the beach and before diving into the water and skinny dipping.

The poster for the film Jaws. Pic: HA/THA/Shutterstock
The poster for the film Jaws. Pic: HA/THA/Shutterstock

Her character Chrissie Watkins is then suddenly pulled under the water and she screams as she is violently attacked by an unseen great white shark.

Ms Backlinie had been a champion swimmer when cast in the film. She 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,” she said.

In the documentary, Jaws: The Inside Story, Spielberg called Ms 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.”

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Ms Backlinie worked with Mr Spielberg again in the 1979 parody war film 1941, in which she spoofed her Jaws character.


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