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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June 2004, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Talented amputees seek film work
Paul Burns and Tony Tomlinson on the set of Gladiator
Stunt extras Paul Burns and Tony Tomlinson on the set of Gladiator
A group of stunt extras who have worked in dozens of films have set up a special agency to feature new talent.

But what makes their agency different is their speciality - supplying people who have had limbs amputated.

Tony Tomlinson, of Hopton, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, says a trend toward historic epics such as Troy has kept him busy.

He said: "Amputees are needed for the battle scenes, and I think we've come into our own since then."

Mr Tomlinson said today's audiences, whether they are watching Casualty or Shaun of the Dead, expect realism.
You have to have quite a good mental attitude because you're going to be killed or thrown off buildings - but I don't mind dying for a living.
Tony Tomlinson, stuntman

"Fifty years ago directors would cast someone with his arm tied behind his back," he said.

Mr Tomlinson lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 1997 and spent two years at RAF Headley Court Rehabilitation Hospital in Surrey.

While there he was offered a part as an extra in the film Gladiator and ended up in two action scenes.

He and three other ex-forces stuntmen hope their agency, Amputees in Action, will fill filmmakers' need for actors missing limbs without having to resort to the expense of CGI (computer generated image) wizardry.

Special effects

One of the best-known examples of CGI used in this way is the 1994 film Forrest Gump, in which actor Gary Sinise's legs were digitally "erased" when his character was injured in Vietnam.

Though the technology is there, Mr Tomlinson said directors often prefer to use extras for realism, like John Pickup, who appeared in the Normandy scene in Saving Private Ryan as a soldier who lost his arm in the fighting and retrieved it from the sand.

But many of the extras and stuntmen also lost their limbs in extraordinary ways; Paul Burns was serving as a para in Northern Ireland when he was wounded in 1979.

John Pickup
John Pickup, a paralympic athlete, has been in eight films
Mr Tomlinson said: "We're not professional stunt guys and we never will be. John (Pickup) and I worked together on Troy last year.

"Brad Pitt killed me twice and John once. Orlando Bloom also topped me.

"I died nine times in Band of Brothers.

"You have to have quite a good mental attitude because you're going to be killed or thrown off buildings - but I don't mind dying for a living."

He added that he hoped the agency will be able to recruit women, send prospective stunt people to school in San Diego, California, and supply people for future films for several years to come.

"There will always be amputees, so it's not just for us." he said.




SEE ALSO
Landmine amputee to walk Britain
05 Jun 04 |  Hampshire/Dorset
Walk success for amputee
26 Dec 03 |  South East Wales
I am not disabled
07 Aug 03 |  Wales
Band of Brothers' realism push
05 Oct 01 |  Entertainment

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