Jonathan Searle: 'Jaws' child star is now police chief of Martha's Vineyard where film was made
Jonathan Searle has been appointed the new police chief of Oak Bluffs, 47 years after filming a scene in the epic shark thriller 'Jaws'. It is the same Massachusetts village that represented Amity in the iconic blockbuster. The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard back in 1975.
The Oak Bluffs town board chose Searle, an Edgartown police sergeant, as their next police chief last week. Searle will take on the real-life position of the film's fictious character, Martin Brody, Amity's senior cop in the film. Searle succeeds the retiring police chief at the end of June. The son of a former Edgartown police chief, Searle grew up on Martha's Vineyard and has been with the department since 1986, according to the Vineyard Gazette. “I’m clearly elated and I’m humbled and honored to have been offered the position,” Sergeant Searle told the Gazette. Despite his appearance in one of the most renowned films of all time, he opted not to pursue a film career.
The son of former police chief George Searle, who served on the force for 30 years and was the top officer from 1981 to 1995, the former child actor joined the PD in neighboring Edgartown in 1986. 'Jaws' was, ironically, based on the exploits of a police chief called Martin Brody. The film, which made $472 million worldwide, had the fictitious Brody (Roy Schneider) team up with marine researcher Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) to track down a man-eating great white shark. “I’m finding the whole thing quite funny myself!” Searle, 56, told the New York Post.
Many locals were cast in the notoriously difficult-to-make film, which went significantly over budget and behind time. Jonathan and his brother Steven also played "Boy Swimmer with Cardboard Fin," in which they wore snorkels and pretended to be the shark causing devastation on the island. In the film, they manage to empty the seas, sending beachgoers scrambling to the land. When they come up for air, they are greeted by a swarm of police officers with weapons to their heads.
Jonathan exclaims, "It was his idea!" as he pointed to his sibling. That sequence was shot at what is now known as the "Jaws Bridge," which connects the villages of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. It is now a well-known landmark on the island, particularly among recreational jumpers.
In 2008, tales of horrific shark encounters made headlines in Martha's Vineyard, forcing Searle to investigate. However, Searle hopes that reality will not mirror art, stating that he prefers to focus on arresting criminals on dry land rather than lethal aquatic creatures lurking in adjacent seas. The 2008 panic was caused by a man who informed beachgoers that he saw "two gigantic great white sharks swimming" in the seas off Martha's Vineyard. However, Searle's inquiry into the supposed sighting showed that there were no such sharks. The man who raised the alarm, identified as Michael Lorenzo, was eventually charged with disorderly conduct. At the time, 'Jaws' fans noted the irony of Searle tracking down a shark hoaxer after playing one in the renowned film.