The chief of Amity Island?

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Edgartown Police Sgt. Jonathan Searle was chosen by the Oak Bluffs select board to be the town’s next police chief. Searle will take the reins of the Oak Bluffs Police Department on June 13.

A longtime cop whose father was also a police chief, Searle, like a number of Islanders around in the ’70’s, had a role in “Jaws.” This wasn’t lost on news outlets in Massachusetts, across the nation, and across the pond in the U.K.

From the New York Post to the Daily Mail, news outlets have been keen to highlight and juxtapose Searle’s old movie role and new police role. Searle played a boy who spooked swimmers with a fake fin mounted on his back. News outlets have also been quick to point out Searle will now be a police chief where the blockbuster film was shot. 

Searle told The Times one thing that seems to be getting missed is that there is no chief of Martha’s Vineyard — it’s a six-town, six-chief Island, and furthermore, “Jaws” wasn’t filmed in Oak Bluffs alone, but in many places around the Vineyard. Searle said he played alongside his brother Stephen in the fake fin scene. In that scene he points to his brother as rifles bear down on them and says, “He made me do it.”

Searle said both he and his brother wanted to be Chief Brody’s kids in the movie, but their body types, ages, and other attributes didn’t line up with what casting was looking for. Opportunity to be in the movie in the first place, he said, came from his school drama teacher, Virginia Poole, who tapped a bunch of her students to audition. Searle recalled doing readings before Spielberg and another person. He said he eventually showed up in different parts of the movie as a background actor, including a band scene. 

Searle said he got the fin role after overhearing the idea being discussed between members of the film crew. Searle said he volunteered both himself and his brother. A few days later, he said, he got a call, and he and his brother got the roles. 

Years later, Searle said he met a man who was from the Cape and worked at the Steamship Authority who told him he’d been one of the actors aiming a rifle at him in the movie. 

Searle also recalled a practical joke played on him by another Vineyard kid actor in the movie, the late Christopher Rebello. Rebello played Chief Brody’s son Michael. Searle said Rebello told him there was a shared dressing room for actors that would be OK to visit. Searle said it was in a trailer that turned out to be Roy Scheider’s trailer. Searle said he entered the trailer and soon enough Scheider entered the trailer and was “shocked” to find him there — shocked but not mad, Searle stressed. Searle said he explained to Scheider what Rebello had told him, and the whole thing turned out to be no big deal. 

Years later, in preparation for “Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard,” Searle said author Matt Taylor found some old footage taken by somebody’s mother that showed Scheider leading a kid out of his trailer. When Searle saw it, he recalled saying, “That’s me.”

For the day’s work on the fake fin scene, Searle said he and his brother each got $150. 

“My brother and I pooled our money and bought a Sears and Roebuck go-cart,” he said, and added that they both banked a little, too.

Just last week Searle said he got a royalty check, something he’s received intermittently over the years for his role in “Jaws.” The amount before taxes, he said, hasn’t changed: $150.

Searle said he was amazed how the movie took off. “You could never have predicted where that movie would go,” he said.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. Jonathan Searle’s acting career did not end with Jaws. He is the first individual in the Martha’s Vineyard Samaritan Law PSA. He gives a wonderful heartfelt statement at the beginning, which sets the scene for the others. And, as they say, the PSA went viral. Please continue sharing the PSA.

  2. The Oak Bluffs select board, so wise in their decision. Congratulations to Jonathan, the Police Department and, most importantly, the residents of the town.

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