Bronco McLoughlin, Stuntman on 'The Mission' and 'The Wicker Man,' Dies at 80

Courtesy of Frances McLoughlin
Anthony "Bronco" McLoughlin

He also worked on 'Star Wars,' 'Gangs of New York' and 'Total Recall' and taught Harrison Ford how to use a bullwhip.

Anthony "Bronco" McLoughlin, the colorful Irish stuntman who through the magic of movies hurtled down a waterfall while tied to a crucifix at the start of The Mission and burned to death in The Wicker Man, has died. He was 80.

McLoughlin died Tuesday in his sleep in Ashford, County Wicklow, Dublin, his daughter Frances McLoughlin told The Hollywood Reporter.


"He was a big talker and disapproved of inauthentic or urban activities, like gyms, for example," she noted. "He'd say, 'If you want to get fit, help your neighbor build a wall.'"

McLoughlin performed uncredited stunt work on Star Wars (1977), where he lost some of his hearing because of an explosion, on Superman (1978) and on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), during which he taught Harrison Ford how to use his character's iconic bullwhip.

He also doubled for Edward Woodward inside The Wicker Man structure as it was set ablaze in the 1973 film; shot Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) in a botched theater assassination attempt in Gangs of New York (2002); caught an exploding head thrown by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990); and replaced an injured Kenneth Cranham under the makeup for his Channard Cenobite character in Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988).

In Roland Joffe's Oscar best picture nominee The Mission (1986), about Spanish Jesuits protecting a remote South American tribe, McLoughlin portrayed the dead priest tied to a crucifix eight feet long and six feet wide that pushes through the rapids at the drama's beginning.

In the breathtaking climax, McLoughlin seemingly drops over the waterfall edge into a plunge pool. A photograph of the stunt is on the film's poster.

The famed stunt coordinator on the set, Vic Armstrong, wrote about the scene in his 2011 biography, The True Adventures of the World's Greatest Stuntman: "For the final shot of the priest going over the waterfall, Madame Tussauds had copies of Bronco made and stuck them on these crosses. They were amazingly lifelike."

McLoughlin was tied down for real on the cross and sent downriver for an earlier sequence through the rapids. On the last take, Armstrong deliberately whispered "Cut" so only the crew could hear him. Meanwhile, McLoughlin was getting agitated. "Have you cut yet?!" he yelled.

"I screamed back, 'Keep quiet, Bronco, we're shooting.' And the water was getting rougher and rougher and he started to have visions of plummeting to his doom while we were running down the bank ready to save him at the last minute."

McLoughlin was born in Ireland on Aug. 10, 1938, the son of a lieutenant colonel in the British and Irish armies. At 16, he ran away from boarding school and traveled to Australia, where he joined a Queensland rodeo circuit as a rough rider.

"When I was a boy, I always wanted to be a cowboy," he once said. "In Australia, I got a job on a cattle station, and that's where I learned to ride … I really learned about horses, how to look after them and to do what you want them to do."

His debut stunt work came in the Hammer Films adventure The Viking Queen (1967), made near his home in Ireland, and he later worked as stunt coordinator on the Richard Harris drama The Field (1990), Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and the British TV series Father Ted.

While doing stunts near Frobisher Bay in Canada for 1985's The Last Place on Earth, a miniseries about the race to reach the South Pole, a telegram was urgently sent to his daughter Frances. It simply read: "Bronco bit by husky. Husky okay."

He also worked on TV's The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Dead Cert (1974), Krull (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Troy (2004).

In 1969, McLoughlin married his first wife, Angela, and they spent their honeymoon on the set of the David Lean epic Ryan's Daughter. She died in 2002. He is survived by his second wife, Karen, an Irish dressage expert, and daughters Frances and Fiona.

"I have no regrets and lots of fabulous memories," McLoughlin said in 2013. "All I have left to do now is to finish replacing all my lost teeth, which are scattered all around the world."