A former Wiltshire paratrooper is now advising blockbuster directors on epic military battles.

Paul Biddiss, who once served in the armed forces, now helps big-name directors plan action scenes by offering suggestions and providing boot camp training for hundreds of extras and stuntpeople at a time.

The 55-year-old experienced a surreal full-circle moment when he returned to the area where he did his first exercise as a recruit while helping Sir Ridley Scott on the historical epic Napoleon.

Swindon Advertiser: Paul Biddiss served in the British Army's Parachute Regiment and trained in WiltshirePaul Biddiss served in the British Army's Parachute Regiment and trained in Wiltshire (Image: Paul Biddiss)

He said: “I couldn’t believe it. Never in a million years did I think I would be back there filming a movie with him all these years later.

“I had a similar feeling when Sam Mendes filmed part of 1917 on the same part of Salisbury Plain I used to jump out over as a paratrooper.

“If you’d told me about that back then, I’d have laughed. It was a career I fell into by chance that has gone from strength to strength."

Swindon Advertiser: Paul Biddiss teaches extras how to use a cannon.Paul Biddiss teaches extras how to use a cannon. (Image: Paul Biddiss)

Paul worked as a bodyguard and private investigator after leaving the Parachute Regiment, then heard that a production team wanted veterans to play soldiers in George Clooney's film Monuments Men.

He said: “I thought ‘Why would I dress up as a soldier? I spent 24 years doing that' but gave it a go. I was picked to do a scene and gave suggestions about how it should play out, and they said 'yeah, let's do that'.

“Extras are supposed to be seen and not heard but I didn’t know the etiquette."

Good word of mouth soon spread and he started his new career on the 2014 Brad Pitt war film Fury, directed by David Ayer, which was followed by SAS TV drama Strike Back, the most recent Jason Bourne film, Best Picture Oscar nominee 1917, and ITV thriller Trigger Point.

He then worked with David Ayer again on Jason Statham's The Beekeeper, which is currently in cinemas.

Swindon Advertiser: Paul Biddiss prepares for filming on NapoleonPaul Biddiss prepares for filming on Napoleon (Image: Paul Biddiss)

For Napoleon, Paul spent three weeks during the pandemic training over 1,000 people in various army drills and formations, as well as safe and historically accurate usage of muskets and cannons for huge clashes at Waterloo and Austerlitz.

On set, he viewed storyboards of certain scenes and suggested changes to Sir Ridley between takes.

He added: "It's all about having the right attitude, communicating well with people, and being prepared to adapt to sudden changes.  It's not easy but I enjoy it, and people often carry the traits I've taught them onto other jobs.

"You can't be yelling and demanding about every detail, you have to tailor it to what the director wants and what the camera sees. If they take the guidance, then brilliant, but if not, at least you've tried.

"At Waterloo, I suggested that the French should advance in a column of skirmishers but Ridley wasn't sure at first, so I showed him, by shouting out a command to the extras, and he loved it.

"In my research, the weapons and tactics change but what always remains the same is the spirit of a soldier and how he feels when he's about to go into combat.

"You can always tell when there was no-one on set to correct things like the medal order, the uniforms, or how to hold a weapon."

Swindon Advertiser: Paul Biddiss on- setPaul Biddiss on- set (Image: Paul Biddiss)

Paul now manages his own company of military advisors and is listed on IMDB for upcoming projects like Ridley Scott's next film Gladiator 2, Guy Ritchie's The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, and a remake of The Day of the Jackal.

His job has taken him all over the globe and he’s covered every era of military history. Star Wars is the one thing left on his wish list.