Few horror movie opening sequences are as iconic as the one that kicks off Jaws, where a young woman ventures out into the ocean and becomes the very first victim of the villainous Great White Shark. The brutal demise of Chrissie Watkins is one of the single most memorable scenes in horror history, surely familiar even to those who have never actually seen the movie.
Then in her twenties, it was Susan Backlinie who portrayed Chrissie Watkins in the memorable scene, which single-handedly ensured that millions of movie-goers would forever be afraid to step foot into the water.
At the time, Backlinie was a competitive swimmer who briefly dabbled in a career as a Hollywood stuntman, having previously worked as an underwater mermaid in a water show and an animal trainer. It was of course her familiarity with the water that led to her landing the role of the ill-fated Watkins, recommended to the production by a water stunt specialist.
In the years since the release of Jaws, Backlinie appeared in a small handful of films, most notably spoofing her most memorable role in Steven Spielberg’s 1941. She also made brief appearances in Day of the Animals and The Great Muppet Caper, before leaving Hollywood in the early 1980s.
Backlinie’s interesting post-movie life has taken her all over the world, spending many years sailing around the country with her then-husband, throughout the 80s. Back on land, Susan went to school to become a computer accountant, a job that she still holds to this day, in her hometown of Ventura, California.
Though her brief appearance in Jaws was only one of many jobs that Susan Backlinie tackled head on in her youth, it’s of course the one that has forever immortalized her as an iconic piece of the very fabric of pop culture. Strange how life works out sometimes, eh?