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‘Jaws’s First Victim - Actress Susan Backlinie’s Life Now

Busayo Ogunjimi
Jul 10, 2022
12:00 P.M.
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Susan Backlinie became famous after her appearance in Steven Spielberg's 1975 film "Jaws." Many found her captivating; however, she did not stay in the spotlight for long. It has been many years since her retirement, and fans wonder what she is doing now.

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Susan Backlinie's birthplace is Ventura, California. The actress was born on September 1, 1946. As she grew older, she fell in love with acting and began her acting career in the 1970s. During her 20s, Backlinie aggressively pursued her passion for performing and appeared in hit movies.

The actress's notable TV credits include "Jaws" and "The Great Muppet Caper." While forging a path to fame, Backlinie found love. She married Monty Cox, but the couple later divorced. Today, the "Jaws" star is married to William Seale, and details about their life as a couple are scarce.

Susan Backlinie in a scene from the film "Two-Minute Warning" in 1976 | Source: Getty Images

Susan Backlinie in a scene from the film "Two-Minute Warning" in 1976 | Source: Getty Images

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SUSAN BACKLINIE: "JAWS" FIRST VICTIM

Susan Backlinie's moment in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" was a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance, yet it has become her most unforgettable role. The California native was a stuntwoman, and this was her first time on the big screen. Despite being a small role, Backlinie worked for three days to master her part.

Her jaw-dropping role is that of an experienced swimmer named Chrissie Watkins, who appears in the opening scene. Unfortunately, after a few strokes, the swimmer is dragged underwater by the terrifying shark, leaving the audience in awe and terror.

Susan Backlinie swimming as the great white shark swims up in publicity art for the film "Jaws" in 1975 | Source: Getty Images

Susan Backlinie swimming as the great white shark swims up in publicity art for the film "Jaws" in 1975 | Source: Getty Images

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Three years later, she went on to parody her famous role in another of Spielberg's films titled "1941." In the 1979 feature, Backlinie finds her swimming disrupted by a Japanese submarine instead of a hungry shark.

Apart from her acting credits, Backlinie loves animals and was an animal trainer. Backlinie even owned a bear, whose growls featured in the blockbuster sci-fi movie "Star Wars," as the voice of Chewbacca.

Susan Backlinie attends Chiller Theatre Expo Spring 2017 at Hilton Parsippany on April 21, 2017 in New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

Susan Backlinie attends Chiller Theatre Expo Spring 2017 at Hilton Parsippany on April 21, 2017 in New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

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SUSAN BACKLINIE AFTER HER SMALL ROLE IN "JAWS"

Backlinie continued acting until 1982, when she retired. After that, she chose to work as a computer accountant in her hometown. After her minor celebrity status, the former actress retreated to a private life and has been enjoying the solitude.

Days before the 47th anniversary of the "Jaws" release, Backlinie was spotted in an oversized hoodie, shorts, and matching shoes while holding a grocery bag, which implied that she might have been on a shopping errand.

Interestingly enough, Backlinie resides in a houseboat that appears to resemble the vessel employed to hunt down the deadly sea creature in "Jaws."

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Susan Backlinie attends 2013 Monsterpalooza held at The Burbank Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on April 13, 2013 in Burbank, California | Source: Getty Images

Susan Backlinie attends 2013 Monsterpalooza held at The Burbank Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on April 13, 2013 in Burbank, California | Source: Getty Images

But her life is far from peaceful. According to Daily Mail, the former actress is scheduled to appear in court later in the year due to a battery charge from an incident in August 2020.

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This is not the first legal drama for Backlinie. In 2019, she was in court for a DUI after crashing into another vehicle in her neighborhood.

 Susan Backlinie attends the 2007 Chiller Theater Convention at the Hilton Hotel on October 5, 2007 in Parsippany, New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

Susan Backlinie attends the 2007 Chiller Theater Convention at the Hilton Hotel on October 5, 2007 in Parsippany, New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

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HOW WAS THE ICONIC SCENE WITH SUSAN BACKLINIE FILMED?

After nearly five decades since its release, "Jaws" is still an all-time classic and is considered one of the best sea-themed films in history. The 1975 production was the first of its kind; it exceeded the initial budget of $4 million ($9 million was the final spend).

Despite the extra costs of the project, the cast and crew went to great lengths to make it a success with the props and directing.

For the opening scene, they worked at replicating the appearance of a shark attack. Cables were attached to Backlinie's legs and were pulled from the beach, causing a jerking motion.

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Susan Backlinie with a fan at "Jaws" Fest celebrating "Jaws" 30th Anniversary Edition DVD release by Universal Studios Home Entertainment | Source: Getty Images

Susan Backlinie with a fan at "Jaws" Fest celebrating "Jaws" 30th Anniversary Edition DVD release by Universal Studios Home Entertainment | Source: Getty Images

Ironically, Backlinie was genuinely frightened after the first pull, as Spielberg didn't tell her when the tugging would begin. They also buried a female crew member in the sand while exposing one arm. This was because Backlinie's prop arm looked fake.

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Apart from directing the cast to act convincingly, other issues like sinking boats and wet cameras made it challenging to film. Yet, through hard work and discipline, the film was a success.

During the first weekend of its release, "Jaws" grossed an astounding $7 million and bagged $124 million at the box office, setting a groundbreaking record previously held by "The Godfather."

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