Bodyguard to the A-listers Mark 'Billy' Billingham shares his secrets

As a bodyguard Mark 'Billy' Billingham has looked after some of the biggest A-listers around.
Mark 'Billy' Billingham (contributed pic)Mark 'Billy' Billingham (contributed pic)
Mark 'Billy' Billingham (contributed pic)

He’s been responsible for the safety and security of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sir Michael Caine, Jude Law, Hulk Hogan, Kate Moss, Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise, no less. Remarkable names – and a remarkable responsibility.

He will share the secrets on Always A Little Further, a 26-date tour which plays Bexhill’s De La Warr Parr Pavilion on Wednesday, October 18; Theatre Royal Brighton on Thursday, October 19; and Guildford’s G Live on Saturday, November 11.

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Key to Billy’s bodyguarding success (after all none of the above came to grief) is the fact that he is also TV's most experienced, highest ranking and most decorated SAS leader and sniper. Billy joined the Parachute Regiment in 1983 and served until 1991 when he joined the SAS as a mountain troop specialist. He was responsible for planning and executing strategic operations and training at the highest level in locations including Iraq, Afghanistan, South America and Africa. He also led countless hostage rescues. It was all the perfect qualification for moving into bodyguarding when he left the services.

“For 18 or 19 months I was looking after Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I lived with them. I was their personal bodyguard and I spent the best part of that time looking after them and keeping them safe.”

With A-listers a big part of the job is looking after their image and making sure that they don't get caught out by the media saying or doing the wrong thing but it is also about safety. “You've only got to look at the John Lennon scenario. There is a lot of hatred out there. People love and hate people and you look at John Lennon and you've got a fan that loved and hated and killed.”

Billy is convinced that John Lennon these days would have had proper bodyguarding: “You have got to be aware of these things and also you've got to be thinking about kidnapping. You have just got to be geared up for it. You just don't know. It is easy to become complacent. Most people just want to say hello to the celebrity and that's that but there is always the chance that somebody might want to do something. You've got to be the ears and the eyes that they haven't got.”

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It's a question of looking at a situation, quickly assessing it and eliminating the dangers. It's not necessarily about telling the A-lister what those dangers were.

“You don't sit down and say I have done these 50 things to make you safe. You just get on and do them so that they do not have to be bothered by them. You are looking after their safety so that they don't need to be thinking about it. There is always the threat of somebody, some kind of exaggerated fan and you've just got to be on your toes all the time. I had 30 years in the military and with the SAS and with that you've always got to be alert. You've just got to be on your toes anticipating what is coming. A lot of my time in the military was in conflict and war and you're always asking yourself what's going to happen.”

But it is also about discretion and that too is a key part of safety. As Billy says, it's not necessarily about the physical things. If someone wants to attack your A-lister, then obviously they will attack the bodyguard first and if you're standing there looking huge in dark glasses, it is obvious that you are the bodyguard: “For me it was about keeping a low profile. It was about being low key so the people might be thinking where is the bodyguard. It is just a question of being there when you are needed and that's not something that comes from reading a book or doing a course. It comes from experience. That's the really crucial thing. The A-listers know I am there but I was always in the background. You've got to let these people have their privacy. It's about letting them lead their lives. It's not about you. You've got to be there when you are needed and in the background just making sure everything is OK the rest of the time. And as I say it just comes down to experience and planning.”

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