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RickI 02-05-2015 03:41 PM

The Life & Times of Big John McLaughlin

A throwback over 50 years ago dealing with a prominent diver/stuntman/scene mechanic in adventure movies, John McLaughlin. I have met John several times over the years in Ft. Lauderdale on or near the beach around the Swimming Hall of Fame and at dive shows. I've have been impressed with his work in several favorite movies, most notably "Thunderball" and the more recent "Into the Blue." There is an excellent article about his life and times with lots of behind the scenes commentary of now classic underwater adventure films.

More at
DPV shark?
Putting the plane into position for the filming of "Into the Blue" off New Providence in the Bahamas.

There are still more images and discussion about John's adventures at:


RickI 04-21-2020 11:53 AM

I am very sorry to say that big John has passed on. He will be remembered by so many local residents, colleagues in Diving and the film business, and indirectly by adventure movie fans everywhere whether they knew John or not.

“A message from Cal Deal:
I’m very sorry to report that our good friend Big John died this afternoon. He was 93.

According to his daughter Yvonne, he had been dealing with some medical issues in recent months, but he died peacefully in his sleep at their home near Charleston, South Carolina.

I first met John at the water’s edge on Fort Lauderdale Beach. He saw my camera, asked if it was a Nikon, and our conversation was under way. It didn’t abate in any meaningful way until he moved out of state years later.

One of my favorite Big John stories concerns the time he punched a shark that had intruded on the set of a James Bond movie. John was setting up a shot that would feature Sean Connery. A shark suddenly appeared in the small set and swam toward him. John instinctively bopped it on the snout. The shark quickly swam out of the shot, but the camera had been rolling and the scene was so good that the moviemakers shot it again from a different angle — after replacing John with Sean Connery. In the final edit it appears to be Connery having the face-to-face encounter with the live shark!

As a stunt diver, John played a key role in the underwater battle scenes of the greatest Bond movie of all: “Thunderball.” He was the white-haired villain Largo!

Sad, sad news.


RickI 04-21-2020 12:23 PM

More about Big John at:


including a list of his screen work:

Movies Big John Worked On:

Day of the Dolphin
“Joe” Panther
007 Thunderball
007 The Spy Who Loved Me
007 Goldfinger
Key West
The Daring Game
Caddy Shack
“Namu” the Killer Whale
007 Never Say Never
Lady in Cement
Hello Down There
Around the World Under the Sea
Harem Flipper
Gentle Ben
Jaws Revenge
Star of India
Police Academy V
Lucky Lady
Caddy Shack II
“Mako” the Jaws of Death
Fair Game
Donnie Brosco
The Insider Specialist
Strip Tease


Spanners Key
Gentle Ben
Fantasy Island
240 Robert
Six Million Dollar Man
Wet Gold
Bionic Woman
New Flipper

A IMBd listing which needs to be expanded:

RickI 04-24-2020 12:16 PM

Steve Singer posted this on Facebook:

Bill Raymond put this nice bio together for the Broward Maritime Museum display about John.

Movie Double, Stunt Diver, Cinematographer

Big John was born in Charleston, SC on January 27, 1927. At a young age he knew he wanted to be a Navy diver. World War II broke out and he joined the U.S. Navy, serving as a machinist. After the war, John became an oil rig diver in the Gulf in the ‘50s. He later joined the Divers Training Academy of Miami and became one of their top instructors, teaching hard hat diving, scuba, demolition, decompression, salvage and rebreathers. He met u/w stuntman Courtney Brown and Ivan Tors, producer of Sea Hunt, who gave him his name Big John, because there was already a John McLaughlin in the Screen Actors Guild. Big John taught Lloyd Bridges how to dive and doubled for him in underwater scenes. He also became the u/w double for Sean Connery in several of the 007 movies, and drove a jet ski in Thunderball between the twin hulls of the Tropic Rover, a 150-foot catamaran built in Ft Lauderdale in 1960.

As a civilian, Big John was asked from time to time to help the Navy on deep salvage dives, and made a test emergency swimming ascent from a depth of 300 feet for Capt. George F. Bond, developer of the theories of saturation diving, and dived as deep as 520 feet using neon as a mixed gas, for Dr. Bill Hamilton, foremost authority on mixed gas diving.
His passion for the underwater environment led him to join Marine Geologist Bill Raymond in bringing attention to the threat to coral reefs by ship anchors near Port Everglades. They went to the Port Commission, their congressman E. Clay Shaw and the Coast Guard to successfully initiate the creation of a formal, charted anchorage area off Port Everglades in 1989 to protect the local coral reefs.

His safe diving practices served him well; he never suffered the “bends.” He worked on 29 movies and 13 TV series.

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