Back to IndieWire

‘Jaws’ Child Star Becomes Police Chief of Beach Town Where Blockbuster Was Filmed

Jonathan Searle famously played the kid who faked a shark-spotting in the 1975 film.




This “Jaws” alum is sinking his teeth into a new role: police chief of the real-life Amity Island.

The quintessential 1975 summer blockbuster, directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Roy Scheider as Martin Brody, a police chief looking to take down a massive man-eating shark with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw). Set on a fictional island, the movie was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.

Now, child star Jonathan Searle is becoming the police chief of Oak Bluffs, a Martha’s Vineyard town where “Jaws” was filmed. Searle and his brother played two kids who staged a shark hoax with a cardboard fin, shortly before the actual shark devastates the beach once more.

Searle has been a member of the Edgartown Police Department since 1986 and was voted to the status of police chief on May 16,  per the Vineyard Gazette. Ironically, Searle charged a man with disorderly conduct for lying about having seen sharks in the area in 2008, and the Edgartown Police Department does not let Searle forget his “Jaws” acting stint.

The P.D. shared a special social media tribute in 2019 to coincide with the film’s 44th anniversary, writing, “Anytime we can show off the fact that Sgt. Searle was in ‘Jaws’ is a good day!!”

Searle’s father George Searle was a police chief in Edgartown from 1981 to 1995. Searle told the Gazette that his appointment to the same position is an honor, saying, “It’s something I’ve been working toward my whole career.”

Produced for less than $9 million, “Jaws” made over $470 million in global returns, including a $260 million domestic take that earned it the top spot at the box office in 1975, as IndieWire’s Kate Erbland reported for the film’s anniversary in 2017. “Jaws” cemented the term blockbuster, becoming the first feature film to break $235 million in domestic returns thanks to its revolutionary marketing campaign targeting teens in the summer. The film went on to be nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and winning three for its technical achievements.

“The film also opened up doors for some of modern-day blockbuster filmmaking’s less exciting (and less satisfying) elements, including a bent towards franchises, complete with both big successes and huge disappointments,” Erbland penned. “‘Jaws’ beget three sequels during a time when that was hardly conceivable, let alone status quo, [but] it still devours all the knock-offs it inspired.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox