Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s former bodyguards describe their work

To mark bowl Billingham was bodyguards for some of the world’s biggest stars, from Russell Crowe to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. He is also the author of several thriller novels and co-hosted the television show SAS: Who dare win over the past 7 years.

“The world of bodyguards is tough, but it’s all about knowledge and experience“, explains to Business Intern This 57-year-old former special forces soldier who divides his time between Herefordshire, in rural England, and Lake Worth, Florida (United States).

“You need to be in good shape and have some martial arts ability, but it’s also about planning, organizing and building a good relationship with your customers. Remember why you’re here: it’s not is not about being the center of attention, but about build a protective bubble around your celebrity”.

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For work, he shares, he charged up to 700 pounds sterling (about 820 euros at the current exchange rate) a day. It has been a lucrative and exciting career for many years, but he admits it has been a lot of pressure. for your personal and family life. Because of this, he reconsidered his professional goals and used this direct experience in protecting public figures to transition into his current work in the media.

Here is a look back at his career following his celebrity clientele:

Billingham’s rocky start landed him in the special forces

Billingham, in military service.

Billingham shares this had a difficult childhood, as she grew up in a poor part of Britain surrounded by gangs. At the age of 13, he had been expelled from school. “I wanted to be a badass,” he recalls. That changed when, at the age of 15, he was stabbed and nearly killed, which was “a watershed moment” for him. After spending a few years working in a factory, he joined the army and never looked back.

“I thought I was a badass, but I’ve met some really tough people., real men who knew how to fight hand to hand. It was 1983 and everyone had just returned from the Falklands war. It was out of my league, to be honest,” he admits.

Even at 1.80 meters, he described himself at the time as “the smallest, the thinnest, without any luck”. However, Billingham forged ahead and quickly proved his worth by becoming a member of the SAS (Special Air Service), Britain’s version of the US SEALs, and was deployed in conflicts all over the world, from Iraq to Afghanistan.

In 1998 he received the Queen’s Commendation for gallantry, a rare honour, after helping capture an IRA sniper who had killed more than a dozen soldiers. “They needed a target to catch him and I volunteered. I was the bait. I trusted my team at the right time to catch him before he caught me” , he said.

He went from dodging bullets to protecting celebrities by chance

Billingham, in the special forces.

Billingham served in the British Army for almost 3 decades before a chance request changed the course of his career. He was in Brunei training young recruits when a friend asked if he could take a few weeks off to accompany one of his clients to Vietnam, where she was filming.

Billingham was intrigued, but visa paperwork prevented him from taking on this new role. “It planted the seed and I started moonlighting when I was home for summer vacation. And I had a good feeling,” he explains. He soon left the military and began working full-time in the protection industry, often in temporary jobs.

During this time, he kept tabs on Kate Moss, Jude Law, Michael Caine, Tom Cruise and Hulk Hogan and repeatedly protected Russell Crowe. “He’s a man. He doesn’t laugh, joke or drink, so you have to be ready,” Billingham shares of Crowe.

Billingham’s biggest job has been a job 18 months full time for Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their family: “I literally worked 18 hours a day, every day, and I stayed with them.”

The best bodyguards rarely face danger because they anticipate it.

VIP bodyguards aren’t six-foot-tall brawlers on steroids in black suits and sunglasses dark and with headphones hanging menacingly, as filmmakers often display in movies.

“Those big chunks rolling on the floor? In 10 seconds they’re more likely to have a heart attack”: There are celebrities in the music business who often surround themselves with these guys, largely to theater security, but their Real Protective Gear will be much more discreet, Billingham says.

“You have to know their mood swings, their strengths and their weaknesses, but you can’t tiptoe anything and you can’t end up walking on eggshells. Your job is to allow them to have a life they couldn’t have without security.”

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He was once on set with Angelina Jolie when she was filming with director Clint Eastwood, who approached Billingham and looked him up and down. “He said, ‘What are you doing, jiu-jitsu? Karate?’ in his voice. And I said, ‘I think so.’ I replied, “I try to stay out of trouble. I may not be one of the tallest, but I’m one of the smartest, so I anticipate trouble. “I like it,” he said and left.

Billingham takes a soft approach: For him, protecting celebrities is more eagle-eyed surveillance than a punch in the face. Whenever I watched Jolie and her family attend premieres surrounded by large crowds, the key was to look for faces in the crowd whose mood was upset. “As soon as you see someone who is not very happy, it is suspicious. I have always done it and I have never been wrongThank God,” he rejoiced.

In cases like this, the relationship and trust with the client are crucial. He built this intimacy by creating an effective force field around her, limiting access to those around her. “They’re reluctant to tell too many people too much: their problems, their dislikes. It’s very difficult if there are too many people too close,” he shares.

Decoys and hijacks are great ways to test new security details

In his role as head of security, Billingham had to coordinate the entire security team, including what is usually a huge army of drivers. It didn’t take long for him to realize that these employees were the weakest links and likely to accept compensation for notifying customers. paparazzi.

So created a trick to weed out those he, and by extension his clients, couldn’t trust. The trick for new drivers was to tell them in advance the route for Pitt and Jolie the next day. The next morning, Billingham would send them elsewhere, sending a trusted and proven driver to the destination he had originally mentioned the night before, possibly a restaurant. “There could be a lot of paparazzi. No wonder it’s very difficult to bring too many people together,” he says.

Great bodyguards anticipate coffee stains as much as blood splatters. “Not everything wants to jump in front of a ball. You have to know what blood type they have, their allergies and what size clothes they wear”keep on going.

“Let’s say Meryl Streep comes to a press conference and has a coffee on the way. The day is ruined. Like a real bodyguard, you have a change of clothes right there for them.”

18-hour days for 18 months prompted him to choose a new career

The intensity of the experience causes many VIP bodyguards to become exhausted. For Billingham, the 18-month stint with Brangelina was her last full-time job for this reason. “It put a huge strain on my relationship,” the father-of-six confesses, adding that it was difficult for him to find time to see them.

After this work, he devoted himself to television, presenting, speaking and writing, notably as co-author of a series of Thriller in French semi-autobiographical featuring Matt Mace Mason, a hero Billingham describes as a mixture of “James Bond, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne and myself”. his latest book, survive to fightwas released earlier this month.

For writing, he relies on the same set of skills he deployed while surveying the stars: “It’s about planning, organizing and using the brain”.

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