Place yourself in the mind of a nine-year-old boy for a moment and imagine what your ideal job would be. Swords would very likely figure. Riding horses and slaying monsters would be right up there. Falling off tall buildings without getting hurt would be a big component, as would dressing up in cool costumes and scary masks and pretending to be somebody else.
And FIGHTING. Lots and lots of fighting.
Such a job is not just a dream for Paul Lowe. For he is a professional stuntman.
But what makes 32-year-old Paul different from your common-or-garden stuntman is that he makes a living standing in for child actors – because he is just 4ft 8in tall. Which is an inch or two smaller than my nine-year-old son who recently got to meet the diminutive actor at an event organised by children's publisher Egmont, to promote their new series of handbooks for the online construction game Minecraft.
At the event, Paul taught my boy and his friends how to sword-fight, how to fall and tumble, how to slaughter baddies, and loads of other cool stuff.
And at the end, my lad said of Paul: "He's awesome. Wish I had his job."
Unfortunately, like me, he's got the Lanky Streak of P*** Gene, so there is little chance of that. But I promised him that, if I could, I would interview one of the UK's most sought-after child-stand-in stuntmen. Which brings us to where we are now.
You might think asking a person about their height would be a delicate matter. But not with Paul.
He's fiercely proud of his height. It is who he is. So proud, in fact, that he once presented a BBC3 documentary to celebrate the fact and to challenge people's perceptions of people who are less than the average norm, called 'F*** I'm Small.' Succinctly put!
In it, he described some of the struggles faced by smaller people – not that this seems to have disadvantaged Paul in any way.
He has been a stuntman for 11 years and his roll of film and TV credits would put many Hollywood A-listers to shame: Harry Potter, the last three Batman films, World War Z, The Fast and The Furious 6, Les Miserables, Snow White and the Huntsman, Maleficent, Game of Thrones, Thunderbirds, Robin Hood, Nanny McPhee, Prince Caspian, Legend of Zorro, Mummy Returns, and a whole lot more.
You've probably seen him, though you might not have been aware of it at the time. He's the guy who stands in for the child stars when the demands of the role get too scary for either the kid or the health 'n' safety brigade.
Liverpool-born Paul said: "There isn't anyone else my size in the UK who can do stunts so I have my own niche." I get to do a lot of different stunts which makes my job exciting.
"On the Legend of Zorro I had to ride and then jump a horse out of a train, which is a lot harder and dangerous than it sounds!
"On Batman I had to fall down a well. Last year I had to get knocked down by a taxi for a TV show.
"I did all the fighting for the dwarves in Snow White and the Huntsman. I got thrown off a cliff for Thunderbirds. I got flown to New Zealand to gallop a horse and rear it and fall off in front of Aslan the Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
"It's an exciting job but it's dangerous too and I've been very lucky.
"I've fractured bones, had lots of bumps and bruises but nothing too serious. I have had friends who have been really hurt and that's when you realise, as fun as my job can be, it's also dangerous and that it takes a certain kind of person to constantly take on those risks."
Paul is fitter than a butcher's dog and keeps in shape by swimming, boxing, trampolining and horse riding – but that doesn't stop him getting scared at some of the tasks asked of him.
Recalling the time he was thrown off a 45 foot cliff into water, he said: "When you're on top of the cliff and you see how high it is and you know that landing wrong in the water below can seriously hurt you, it's hard to not be nervous.
"That moment when they say, 'OK and three..... two..... one...' your heart is beating hard and then 'action' and the adrenalin really kicks in! But once the stunt is over the rush you get is worth it. If you're safe and unhurt and the director is happy then you've done a good job!"
Of course, there are easier ways to make a living, but Paul wouldn't swap his life for the world.
He said: "Every stunt you do has an element of danger and you always have to be focused and take it seriously, because if you don't that's when you give yourself the opportunity to get hurt.
"But it has its pluses. You get to meet lots of cool people, lots of famous people. Sometimes it can be a bit surreal.
"I remember being in Mexico at a party and Catherine Zeta Jones wanted me to sing karaoke with her and wouldn't stop asking me so I slowly slipped away and left the party. Ha!
"On Batman I got to do a scene with Michael Cain and he came straight over to me and introduced himself which I thought was really nice. He is a legend and it's times like that you have to pinch yourself!"
So how did Paul turn what some people might consider a disadvantage regarding his height into a big plus?
His mum and dad, John and Lily, are short, being 5ft 2in and 5ft 1in respectively, so being small was nothing remarkable to Paul when he was a boy. At school, he was the smallest pupil in the establishment until the third year.
He said: "I knew I was different from my classmates but being small for me was never a bad thing.
"I stood out because I was small and for me that was a plus – I used it to my advantage.
"I wasn't a shy boy. I did theatre and sports and I had lots of friends so the being small thing was never an issue as far as feeling different.
"People always ask me if I was bullied: I think the idea is that if you're small, fat, thin, then you might be bullied for being different but it didn't happen to me.
"I got the mickey taken out of me but I could also take the mickey out of others too and that's a part of growing up and it's a good thing.
"If someone gave it then they have got to take it back. I wasn't a boy who liked fighting but I could look after myself and I guess that helps because I wasn't an easy target: I could hold my own verbally or physically.
"But I think the main reason is that I had small parents, I had small brothers and every day I'd be with them so it didn't feel strange being small.
"I had friends who I grew up with so they knew me as being small so it wasn't an issue for them either.
My advice to anyone who is small, or who is different, is just enjoy being who you are and enjoy life. If people don't like you because you're different, you don't need people like that in your life anyway.
"Who cares what people in the street think of you, or strangers at work or school. The only people's opinions that matter are friends and family.
"I walk around like I'm the same size as anyone else, I enjoy my life and I want to be the best person I can be. Nothing will change that."
So how do you get to become a stuntman? Paul's route to fame started on the stage at school, playing a clown. His teacher then encouraged him to audition for the National Youth Music Theatre and at the age of 13, he won a part in Whistle Down The Wind.
Paul said: "For me that was a dream come true. Over 2,000 people auditioned for a few roles and I got one of them!
"My size wasn't a factor in being picked either - you get the role only if you're good enough and if you suit what the part is."
From there, other roles followed and Paul got to tour the country, appearing on TV and in front of West End audiences, most notably as Fat Sam in Bugsy Malone.
From there, Paul's love of action and adventure led to what felt like a natural leap into stunt work.
So what would his advice be to boys like my lad who wouldn't half mind a job as a professional stuntman? Despite his love for his work, Paul is realistic about what it involves.
He said: "My advice to anyone wanting to get into stunting is to think about it carefully.
"It's a job that you don't have a regular income from unless you're lucky to work lots. It's long, long days.
"You have to be fit and continue to learn new things for the job and you have a risk of getting hurt and being out of work.
"If after all this you're still interested then contact the actors' union Equity and they can give you all the details and qualification needed to become a certified stuntman."
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