Played Largo in "Thunderball" underwater scenes
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Date Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 05:47:15pm
Hollywood stunt diver John Francis “Big John” McLaughlin, Jr., best known for his extensive work in the 1965, James Bond classic “Thunderball,” died Monday, April 20, 2020, at the home of his daughter Yvonne in Charleston South Carolina. He was 93 and had been a resident of Fort Lauderdale for more than 40 years. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina, January 27, 1927, a son of John F. 'Red' McLaughlin and Anna Marguerite Burmester McLaughlin. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Marguerite Scott Bishop. He is survived by his daughter, Yvonne McLaughlin Coleman (Robert). a granddaughter, Alice I. Coleman and a great grandson, Jonathan L. Nabors. He attended Bishop England High School and Murray Vocational School. He was a Navy veteran of WWII and the Korean War. He was a junior partner in Marine Shops, owner of the Dive & Sport Shop, and was a machinist at the Charleston Naval Shipyard. An avid SCUBA diver he left the shipyard to attend Divers Training Academy in Miami, Fl. There he appeared in “Operation Petticoat”, his first film as a stunt double.
McLaughlin was the dive master for “Thunderball” and played the white-haired villain Largo in the climactic underwater battle scenes. He also performed 34 underwater stunt roles in the film, which is widely considered to be the best of the Bond series.
He was involved in the Bond films off and on for years, from “Dr. No” in 1962 to “Licence to Kill” in 1989. His business card echoes that title: “License To Thrill,” it says.
McLaughlin can be seen by Miami’s Fountainebleau pool in “Goldfinger,” and doubling for 007 as a human torpedo shot from M’s submarine in “You Only Live Twice.”
While McLaughlin was setting up an underwater shot for “Never Say Never Again” a fast-moving shark swam into the small set and headed his way. McLaughlin punched the shark and shoved it aside!
The unexpected scene was caught on film. It was so dramatic that the producers re-shot it from a reverse angle, but used Sean Connery so it would appear that 007 was the fearless diver. That scene made it into the film.
In 2009, the premier James Bond fan magazine, “007,” dedicated a 10-page spread to McLaughlin. “John’s real-life experiences working on [the Bond films] are as exciting as any of 007’s cinematic exploits.” the magazine said.
In the course of his film career McLaughlin worked with big names such as Brooke Shields, Lloyd Bridges, Tom Cruise, Brian Dennehy, Richard “Jaws” Kiel, and Flipper, to Frank Sinatra, Johnny Depp, Jackie Gleason, Josh Brolin, Cindy Crawford — and 007s Connery, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton!
In the late 1950s, prior to his James Bond work, McLaughlin became a stunt diver for Lloyd Bridges on the TV series “Sea Hunt.” Later he trained and worked with Flipper for the “Flipper” TV series.
In 2014, he was recognized for a lifetime of achievement by the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale.
In 2007, he received the first National Week of the Ocean Lifetime Achievement Award for his work to preserve the marine environment.
He spent 10 years fighting to protect the coral reefs off Fort Lauderdale. They were being destroyed by ships’ anchors. Working with U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw and Gov. Lawton Chiles, McLaughlin used his diving and cinematography skills to document the destruction, and they got Congress to designate anchorage zones.
While filming “Sea Hunt” he became interested in sharks, orcas and dolphins. He worked with the Navy in their efforts to use dolphins for search and recover.
McLaughlin helped the Navy perform deep salvage dives — including a 520-foot dive in Lake Michigan.
He was one of the first to make an experimental dive with neon in the breathing mix.
In 1970, McLaughlin helped salvage a plane that had crashed in Lake Mead with a U.S. Atomic Energy Commission member aboard. A diving bell and decompression chamber were set up on site.
Capt. George F. Bond (“Papa Topside”) was working on emergency swimming ascents from extreme depths when he met Big John. The technique would make it possible for sailors to escape from submarines. McLaughlin was intrigued by the dangerous experiment and volunteered. He performed an emergency swimming ascent from a depth of 300 feet.
McLaughlin’s Marine Engineer resume included an interesting entry:
“WEAPONS EXPERT …
“up to and including nuclear.”
Big John McLaughlin’s
Deep Sea Diver
Marine Mammal Trainer
Guardian of the Sea
Coast Guard Certified Master Diver
Deep Water Salvage for the U.S. Navy
Member, Federal Disaster Squad (diving 400 feet to recover military aircraft)
007 The Spy Who Loved Me
007 Never Say Never
Day of the Dolphin
The Daring Game
'Namu' the Killer Whale
Lady in Cement
Hello Down There
Around the World Under the Sea
Star of India
Police Academy V
Caddy Shack II
'Mako' the Jaws of Death
The Insider Specialist
Six Million Dollar Man
Burial will be private. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers please make donations to any organization caring for God’s creatures in the ocean and on land.
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