The scene is visceral, disturbing, and extremely physical: Chrissie screams for her life while being jerked violently back and forth by some massive, unseen force beneath the waves. She really sold the hell out of the pain and distress in that scene. Probably because the actress, Susan Backlinie, was in a hell of a lot of pain and distress.
The filmmakers had to use practical effects to make the girl's body rag-doll around like that, which meant rigging up a series of ropes that stretched from Backlinie's torso all the way to the shore, where two large groups of men were yanking her about like a dog with a chew toy. The filmmakers were warned that they could cause the actress serious injury if too many people on either side yanked at the same time. But then again, the more authentic the distress they could inflict on the actress, the more convincing the scene would be. History knows which way the filmmakers erred:
They nearly snapped her backlinie.
When Backlinie crawled up on that beach, she probably thought her ordeal was over. Not so: The sound of Chrissie's screams still had to be added later in the studio, and to make her shrieks more convincingly like those of a drowning woman ... they went ahead and waterboarded her while she did it. Remember: waterboarding -- lying back, restrained, while an assailant pours a constant stream of water into your airways -- is so inhumane that the practice violates the Geneva Conventions. So technically, Steven Spielberg is guilty of crimes against international law.
But hey, Jaws was an awesome flick, so what's a little torture between friends?
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Related Reading: Funny story- Michael J. Fox was almost hung filming Back to the Future 3. Likewise, that infamous vomiting scene from The Exorcist was 100% acting-free. For a look at the great background performances of all time, watch this Cracked video.
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