Size has been an advantage for Graham Mullins, who at 6ft 5ins and 23 stone, is the kind of heavyweight actor needed for strong man roles.
And that’s how the lorry driver from Letwell ended up working alongside Crowe on the blockbuster Gladiator. He was selected for the stunt man role after being spotted in Scotland competing in the Highland games.
Graham, 46, said: “They wanted big men but who were fast on their feet, which we all were.”
“Russell was great. We had a good laugh and a good craic and a few good nights out.”
“He had heard of me because of the strong man stuff I had been doing and I really got on with him.”
“He wouldn’t do the whole Hollywood thing, when we had finished all he wanted to do was get back home to his horses.”
Graham spent three months filming in Morocco and took one of the last few photos of Oliver Reed before he died.
His next film role, as an Irish maniac, was in Tristan and Isolde which took him to Ireland and then to Prague for four months.
The up side was going to Matt Damon’s 30th birthday party, but the down side was getting injured.
“I got stabbed in the eye during a fight scene with James Franco. Everything is choreographed but things can still go wrong,” he said.
“I had to have stitches and my eye swelled up so much I couldn’t see. They had a surgeon on hand who stitched me up on a picnic table.”
“I really enjoyed doing the film though because the stunt co-ordinator was from Sheffield and there was a nice group of us.”
Graham’s wife Michelle said he tended to be typecast because of his size. “But he’s the sweetest, gentlest man you could meet,” she said.
Graham said there is talk of a prequel to Gladiator being made, which he would do if he got the call.
But he’s not keen on making acting a fulltime career because of family commitments.
“It’s not all glamorous, you can be on set for 14 hours a day even if you’re not filming. It takes you away from your family for months at a time as well, and we have six kids between us.”
Graham first got involved in sport when he was a pupil at Maltby Comp and gained the county discus record at the age of 15.
He later began competing in strong man competitions and trained with former champion Geoff Capes in Lincolnshire.
In 1996 Graham earned the title of Britain’s Strongest Man. He was also the British Highland Games Champion for eight or nine years. He said: “I’ve always been quite competitive and was always into sport, I played junior rugby for Rotherham.”
“I was six foot plus when I was still at school and at my heaviest I’ve been 29 stone.”
He has pulled a Boeing 737, trains and a 120 ton boat, and has turned cars over. He has even pulled a double decker bus with his teeth.
“There’s a lot of training and technique involved to do that,” he said.
Graham, who works for Newell and Wright in Sheffield, said he has stopped competing now because of injuries.
He has problems with his knees, shoulders and elbows and has vertebrae out of line, but he doesn’t regret his strong man stunts.
“Through sport I’ve got to a lot of places and met a lot of people I would never have met if I hadn’t done it.”
“I did a strongest man competition at Earls Court in front of the Queen and a charity event in front of Princess Diana.”
“I’ve had a full life.”