A FORMER paratrooper from Witney who has worked with film stars such as Matt Damon and Brad Pitt says his latest TV role tops them all.

Paul Biddiss has been training up hundreds of extras to battle it out in BBC One's historical drama War and Peace which starts tomorrow.

Oxford Mail:


The 47-year-old became a military advisor for the film industry following 24 years with the Parachute Regiment’s 3rd Batallion and was stationed at Brize Norton.

Three year's on from retiring as sergeant on December 12, 2012, Mr Biddiss is celebrating his biggest tv stint so far working with 500 actors on the set of War and Peace.

He said: "War and Peace for me is the big one because the other stuff was on a smaller scale.

"It is my first biggy, I never realised how big it was going to be.

"It is pretty mad, because when I left the army after 24 years I did not expect to be training guys in Napoleonic tactics and learning history of Napoleon and how they managed their men.

"To see all the work I had done with the guys come together made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Everything put together with sounds and explosions, you do sit back and think wow I was involved in that."

Oxford Mail:


The married dad-of-five was asked to help out on the set of the BBC One drama back in February after stints working on films including Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, Fury filmed near Watlington and the Bourne Sequel.

Mr Biddiss says the career stemmed from advice he gave to film star George Clooney for a battle scene in The Monuments Men - in which he was an extra - which impressed the senior military advisor Billy Budd.

War and Peace saw Mr Biddiss spend months in Lithuania training up an artillery of 500 actors to re-enact battles of Russia’s wars with Napoleon.

He said: "I had to learn about Napoleonic tactics and I went through all old footage because I wanted to make it life-like.

"It looked all too clean and polished. I read lots of battle field accounts from officers and found only a small amount of guys survived, then the rest of the men would be completely fresh with very little experience.

"I wanted them to be trained this way with layers of experience - so I took 100 blokes to one side and trained them for 60 hours.

"The remainder I gave basic training so once it came to filming it looked realistic."

Oxford Mail:

Mr Biddiss also has an on-screen role as Captain Tushin in the six-part TV adaption of the Leo Tolstoy novel.

Starring alongside actors including Grantchester's James Norton as Andrei Bolkonsky, The Fall's Gillian Anderson as Anna Pavlova and Downton Abbey's Lily James as Natasha Rostova.

Mr Biddiss added: "It has all sort of fallen in my lap, it was not something I planned on doing.

"It is a real mad thing to be involved with - one week I could be sat in a cockpit watching R2D2 going past me, the next I could be training Napoleonic tactics."

The series will first air Sunday night at 9pm and continue every Sunday at the same time for six weeks.