A film set military adviser who has rubbed shoulders with Hollywood giants has shared his experience of working on major projects shot around Oxfordshire.

Paul Biddiss, who once had a "flexibility contest" with Sir Ridley Scott while filming for Napoleon at Blenheim Palace, has advised on several high budget filming projects around the county.

Oxford Mail: Paul Biddiss, military advisor for film and TVPaul Biddiss, military advisor for film and TV (Image: Contributed)

He was brought in to give guidance on Jurassic World, Transformers 5, and Mission Impossible 5, all of which have scenes at the Woodstock palace.

Mr Biddiss has most recently offered his services to the newest interpretation of the Roald Dahl classic, the Timothy Chalamet-led Wonka which had scenes filmed in Oxford.

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The movie, which follows the life of Willy Wonka before the chocolate factory, was filmed in the quad of the Bodleian Library, by the Sheldonian Theatre and the Radcliffe camera, as well as in Hertford College.

In an exclusive interview with the Oxford Mail, the 55-year-old Mr Biddiss, who lives near Witney, spoke about projects he has worked on, famous people he has mixed with, getting his start in the industry and his foray into the world of gaming.

He said: “I’ve been involved with lots of different jobs around Oxford and its surrounding areas.

"With Wonka I was called in to advise on the soldier scenes, which involved Timothy being chased by military men.

“For Jurassic World we used an old hospital in the county for the opening scene with Jeff Goldblum, and I’ve filmed at Blenheim a lot too. It’s handy because it’s only down the road from me.”

With a 24-year career in the parachute regiment of the British Armed Forces – which he left in 2012 – Mr Biddiss is well qualified for his advisory role.

He explained that his chief role on set is to ensure actors and extras are trained in how to hold a weapon, march, and manoeuvre like a real soldier.

He said: “It’s my job to train these guys in the shortest possible time. The aim is for me to be able to bark out orders, and for them to react straight away.

"I save the production a lot of money because I prevent lots of takes having to be done.

“On the set of 1917 for example, there’s no way we could have afforded constant takes.

"I also offer advice to directors, help with costumes, props, arts and stunt departments.”

The former soldier highlighted the importance of understanding what it is like to be in the military when filming for the big screen.

He added: “If you have a reenactor who likes WWI, nine times out of 10 they won’t have served.

"They wouldn’t know if they were walking towards their death. They wouldn’t know what it’s like the first time you’re told to load your weapon to kill someone. They wouldn’t have that experience.”

Oxford Mail: Paul Biddiss in action during filming Paul Biddiss in action during filming (Image: Contributed)Mr Biddiss, originally from South East London, also helps in post-production, particularly with audio dubbing records.

His voice can be heard in a lot of films, including 1917 and Napoleon.

His last posting was at RAF Brize Norton, which the forces had Mr Biddiss moved to because his son has cerebral palsy, and the “Oxfordshire hospitals have the best care".

He served his last day in the military on December 12, 2012.

Mr Biddiss said: “I was quite excited to leave the military.

"I was originally working as a bodyguard and private investigator, then I was asked if I’d like to apply for a job to play a soldier in the film The Monuments Men, which was filmed around the Oxfordshire area.

“The production wanted me to be one of the core group of soldiers in the film. While working, I gave some basic advice to George Clooney. The assistant director noticed that, and asked me to go with him to another room.

Oxford Mail: Napoleon is among the films Paul Biddiss has worked onNapoleon is among the films Paul Biddiss has worked on (Image: Blenheim Palace)“The other extras thought I’d been sacked. But the assistant director liked it. They then asked me to run bootcamps for Fury, with Brad Pitt, and everything went from there.”

Mr Biddiss also voices and does the movements for Karl Fairburne, the main character in the video game Sniper Elite 5.


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1