A former policeman from Staffordshire is walking tall after copping a star role – as a stunt double for a leading dwarf character in blockbuster movie The Hobbit.
Mark Atkin – who is 5ft 4in – used his height to his advantage by landing a part in the smash-hit fantasy adventure by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson.
Mark, who was brought up in Cannock, took an unusual career turn when he moved to New Zealand to work as a police officer, and ended up working on the film set of the trilogy as a member of the cast and a scale double for one of the lead characters.
The 38-year-old never dreamed his life would take such a dramatic change after leaving England to work as a detective in another country.
Mark started his police career with West Midlands Police in 1996, based in Walsall and also worked for Hertfordshire Constabulary, before moving to London’s Metropolitan Police in 2004.
It was 2008 when he moved to the other side of t
he world – to join the police force in Wellington, New Zealand.
But his future took a different turn when a friend suggested going for the open movie audition.
“My friend had spotted it and told me to go for it – and I thought he was just making a joke about my height again.
“But I decided to go at the last minute, even though it said it was looking for people under 5ft 2in.
“It was a rainy Saturday and there was someone at the door which had a mark on it with the height.
“But I was told I was too tall so was turned away. It was as I was walking across the car park though one of the producers ran over and said they wanted to see me and to come back,” he said.
Mark then went through another audition process with around 35 others, and was eventually picked to be the stunt performer and scale double for Richard Armitage, who plays stern dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield.
As the shooting for the three films took 18 months, Mark left his police job to take the role – and found himself acting alongside some major film stars.
“It was hard at first not to be a bit starstruck,” Mark admitted.
“When I met Sir Ian McKellen, who is Gandolf in the film, it was amazing. He came over to say hello and introduce himself, and also asked us all our names and wanted to know a bit about us. He was lovely and so down-to-earth.”
He added: “Being on set gave me goosebumps but then it became a way of life for those months.”
Mark, who was born in Sheffield but moved to Cannock at the age of five, now plans to do more acting, and has already performed in The Mousetrap on-stage in New Zealand.
The former Cannock Chase High School pupil is also working towards becoming a member of the Stunt Guild of New Zealand in a bid to get more work – and would like to have the opportunity to work on more fantasy films and perform Shakespeare on stage.
“I came home for Christmas and went with my family to watch The Hobbit at the cinema at Star City in Birmingham,” he said.
“My parents Noel and Marilyn were so proud and we found it quite funny that people in the cinema watching the film too didn’t realise I was sat at the back,” he added.
The next part of the trilogy is scheduled to be released at the end of this year.
“You never think this kind of thing is going to happen to you. How often do you get offered to quit your day job and star in a huge film?,” said Mark.
“It’s a dream come true.”
Mark’s mother, who lives in Leamington Close, Cannock, said: “We are just so proud of him and can’t wait to see the next Hobbit movie and watch it with him.”