From Team GB to Tinseltown: A gymnast's journey

Nicholas Daines
Image caption Former Team GB athlete Nicholas Daines has been set on fire and fallen off glaciers since quitting competitive gymnastics

He has fallen off glaciers, jumped out of speeding cars and leapt from a 10-storey building to avoid a flurry of gunfire.

It might sound like Nicholas Daines has had an extraordinary run of bad luck.

But no... he is in fact a former Team GB gymnast who, after hanging up his tracksuit, chose the rather unconventional career path of training to become a Hollywood stuntman.

Daines, 39, who represented Great Britain at the 2003 World Championships in Germany, now spreads his time between living in Hertfordshire and Hollywood.

The stuntman, who trains in London, has appeared in about 50 movies including Die Another Day, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

And for athletes who have decided they reached their sporting zenith at the London Olympics, he recommends working in the film industry as one of many career options open to them.

'Naive dream'

Currently working on the upcoming Angelina Jolie film, Maleficent, Daines told the BBC: "When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was jump around and fall off things but I never believed it was something I could make my living from."

Image caption Daines competed in the 2003 World Championships

"With a lot of athletes, once their competitive days are done, they think that's it and they just have to get on with life," he said.

"But there is a whole realm of opportunity out there that is relatively untapped into."

Daines went to Hollywood at the age of 22 in the hope of pursuing a career in film.

"That was a naive dream," he said. "Without the paperwork it was impossible."

Back in the UK, while continuing to compete for his local gymnastics club, he picked up a job as an acrobat in a pantomime troupe.

"Some of the other acrobats told me about the stunt world," he said.

Daines trained with the Equity Stunt Register and at the age of 27 he qualified as a member of the British Stunt Register.

'Most dangerous'

After competing in the double mini-trampoline in the 2003 World Championships, he decided it was time to focus on his new career.

"To be the best you can be at a sport you have to dedicate yourself 100%, and once I'd represented Team GB, I'd reached my goal," he said. "My new career took over."

Image caption The stuntman played Claire Goose's body double in TV series Waking the Dead

He gradually built up his CV performing stunts for commercials and films.

In 2004, he performed "the most dangerous" stunt he says he has ever attempted.

When Det Sgt Mel Silver dramatically exited BBC TV series Waking the Dead, it was not actress Claire Goose taking the 80ft nosedive from the top of a block of flats.

It was in fact Daines - as a body double - completing the fall with a one and three-quarter somersault into an airbag.

"It was a technical gymnastic manoeuvre so my skills came in handy," Daines said.

Glacier fall

Through building up experience and skills, he was eventually considered as having special ability status for his US Green Card in 2010.

At the age of 37, he returned to LA and his film credits since have included Clash of the Titans and Batman Begins.

Image caption Daines performed alongside Daniel Craig in The Golden Compass film

But which role has been his career highlight so far?

"The fall off a glacier in Switzerland was my favourite," Daines proudly says.

In 2007 film The Golden Compass, Daines played a Samoyed chasing Lord Asriel, performed by Daniel Craig.

Lord Asriel slid down a glacier and saved himself. But Daines' character was less fortunate, and fell off off the edge.

"We had a 50ft ice slide, with noose-runs carved out of the glacier and then there was a 60ft high fall," he said.

Terrifying? Perhaps. But it got him a World Stunt Award nomination in the Best Work at Height category.

Meanwhile, Daines has a final word of advice for this year's Team GB athletes.

"Sport is an amazing asset to have because you have that discipline and focus that only sport can give you.

"It's great gateway to help you achieve whatever you want to in life."

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