A scene-stealing kid from the film Jaws is now the police chief on the island where the film was made.
Jonathan Searle was selected this week as the police chief of Oak Bluffs, Mass., a small town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. It was on that island, set in the fictional town of Amity, that the 1975 film was made.
“I’m clearly elated and I’m humbled and honored to have been offered the position,” he told local newspaper the Vineyard Gazette. “It’s something I’ve been working toward my whole career.”
An island native, Jonathan, 56, was a boy when Steven Spielberg’s production — starring Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss — disembarked with its mechanical shark. The film, based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley, centered on Amity’s police chief (Scheider) and a marine biologist (Dreyfuss) who were trying to save residents from a killer shark.
Many locals were cast in the notoriously difficult to make the film, which ran way over budget and behind in its production schedule. Jonathan and his brother Steven both played “Boy Swimmer with Cardboard Fin” — young pranksters who donned snorkels and pretended to be the shark wreaking havoc on the island. They cleared the waters, with beachgoers fleeing to the shore screaming. Their joke ended when they came up for air and had multiple boatloads of police officers with guns pointed at their faces.
Jonathan pointed at his sibling with an “it was his idea!” reaction.
That particular scene was filmed by what is now called the “Jaws Bridge,” on the border of neighboring towns Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. It’s now a famous landmark on the island, known for its recreational jumpers.
Jonathan didn’t pursue an acting career after his role in the iconic film but instead followed in his father’s footsteps. George Searle was a police officer in Edgartown beginning in 1966 and served as police chief from 1981 to 1995.
In 1986, Jonathan became a police officer, also in Edgartown, (where the Obamas own a home, among other famous folks) and he rose the ranks. In 2008, he made headlines for busting a man who started a shark hoax on the island to scare beachgoers.
Oak Bluffs — where Spike Lee, Sunny Hostin and Henry Louis Gates Jr. own homes — is a small town with about 5,300 year-round residents. In the summer, however, the population of the entire island, which is off the coast of Cape Cod and just 100-square-miles, swells in its six towns from 20,000 to around 200,000 with summer visitors.
The fact that the Jaws kid prankster is now the actual police chief in the town where the film was made has spawned headlines around the globe today — and isn’t lost on Jonathan.
“I’m finding the whole thing quite funny myself!” he told the New York Post. However, he told the outlet his focus is on catching real criminals on land.