A modified front-tracking method was proposed for the simulation of fluid-flexible body interactions with large deformations. A large deformable body was modeled by restructuring the body using a grid adaptation. Discontinuities in the viscosity at the fluid-structure interface were incorporated by distributing the viscosity across the interface using an indicator function. A viscosity gradient field was created near the interface, and a smooth transition occurred between the structure and the fluid. The fluid motion was defined on the Eulerian domain and was solved using the fractional step method on a staggered Cartesian grid system. The solid motion was described by Lagrangian variables and was solved by the finite element method on an unstructured triangular mesh. The fluid motion and the structure motion were independently solved, and their interaction force was calculated using a feedback law. The interaction force was the restoring force of a stiff spring with damping, and spread from the Lagrangian coordinates to the Eulerian grid by a smoothed approximation of the Dirac delta function. In the numerical simulations, we validated the effect of the grid adaptation on the solid solver using a vibrating circular ring. The effects of the viscosity gradient field were verified by solving the deformation of a circular disk in a linear shear flow, including an elastic ring moving through a channel with constriction, deformation of a suspended catenary, and a swimming jellyfish. A comparison of the numerical results with the theoretical solutions was presented. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.