Brangelina’s Former Bodyguard: I ‘fathered’ Those Kids


Mark Billingham spent 27 years in the British Army's Special Air Service, fought in Iraq and won the Queen's Commendation for Bravery after capturing an IRA sniper by using himself as bait.

But his toughest gig was not on the battlefield — it was guarding estranged Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Mark, known by his nickname, Billy, was their eyes and ears for 18 months and became so close to their children, he reckons he was their unofficial father.

Now he is entering the world of showbiz as a new instructor for Channel 4's “SAS: Who Dares Wins,” which is back tonight.

He joins Anthony Middleton, Jason Fox and Matthew Ollerton to put 25 civilians through an SAS selection test in the Ecuadorian jungle.

It's not for the faint-hearted, and one thing is for certain: Brad Pitt should not apply.

Billy, 51, says, “Brad wouldn't last long because he wouldn't have any cream to put on his face. It would be too sweaty and uncomfortable for him. He's too pretty! But Angie could do it. She'd probably be the only one with balls at the end. She would stick it out.”

Channel 4 signed Billy — who is also an MBE — after being impressed by his credentials.

His depth of experience also landed him the gig with Brangelina.

Billy admits, “I was Brad and Angelina's head of security. The military set me up perfectly for what I did with them. The biggest concern for them was the kidnapping of the kids, it's all about money.”

Working with the Hollywood stars meant Billy grew close to the couple's six children — Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne — and he was one of the few staff members they trusted to be around the family.

He recalls, “Angie and Brad are very worried about who goes near their children. It was clear from the start we had a great chemistry and they trusted me with the kids. We got very close, I was living with them all the time. I could take the kids anywhere I wanted to on my own,” he continued. “No one else was allowed to do that. Even when I wanted to bring in extra people, they wouldn't let any of those near the kids. They could look out for them from a distance but they couldn't physically touch them. I took them swimming. I fathered them, basically.”

Stalkers were another big issue for the A-listers.
Billy recalls one particularly hairy incident involving Angelina.

He explains, “We had stalkers in Chicago and New York which I had to deal with. Angie was filming in a crowd and everyone's got smiles on their faces except for one guy. He looked angry. A few days later, we were coming off set and this guy came running down the road with photos to be signed. Angie wanted to get out of the vehicle and do it but I said no. I went and got the photos and took them to her. She was like, 'Wow, these are personal photos.' The guy ran off, then reappeared days later near the hotel, so I got him arrested,” he added.

“He'd been following Angie all over the States. To me, it was a John Lennon classic,” Billingham continued. “Whenever she was on her own in pictures, he was smiling. Then whenever she was with Brad, he had this angry look on his face.”

Billy reveals he was more worried about people attacking Brad than Angelina, saying, “People love her but hate him. You have to figure out a way of protecting them from all that. It was challenging, but interesting.”

Protecting celebrities from crazed fans requires careful planning, but Billy found he also had to protect their image too, even carrying spare clothes for his charges in case theirs got stained or crumpled.

He says, “It's not so much about the physical side, but more about the social side. I had to make sure their image was protected, that they were dressed properly and not doing silly things that could be caught on camera.”

The task was harder than it sounds, according to Billy, who says Brad and Angelina lacked some very basic social skills.

He explains, “What surprised me was their low level of common sense. I found it crazy when they would ask me questions like, 'How do I go down to that bar?' and 'What do I need to do to get there?' They're not stupid, but because of the world they live in, they just haven't done something like that for so long. I found that weird.”

As well as looking out for would-be stalkers, assassins and kidnappers, Billy had fun with the couple, especially joker Brad.

He says, “Once, it was Angie's birthday and we were all sitting in an Audi Q7. I hadn't been working with them long and suddenly Brad has locked the doors and farted and we couldn't get out.”

Yet while he spent time with Brad and Angelina's children, divorced Billy found the job kept him away from his own six children, so he had to quit.

He says with a shrug, “I never had a private life. I was exhausted. I lost direction in my own family life. In 17 months I was only home for six weeks. It was just too full-on. I still do bits and pieces for Brad and Angie. She recently went into Iraq for the UN and I looked after her beforehand, got her ready for it and looked after Maddox when she went in.”

Angelina shocked the world last month when she filed for divorce from Brad, ending their 12-year relationship.

Loyal Billy — who has also looked after Russell Crowe, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and Kate Moss — says he was just as shocked by the split as everyone else.

Now he is focusing on becoming a star himself.
Season 1 of “Who Dares Wins” was a big hit for Channel 4 last year and Billy believes the new one will be just as good.

He says, “I have to take my hat off to the guys for having the balls to do it. Some performed pretty bloody well out there. The most important ingredient for any SAS soldier is his mental capacity. It's not about your image or shape, it's whether you can think and operate under pressure. It's so important to know if a guy is someone you can work with … a team player and dependable. It doesn't mean you want to go drinking with him, but when the s— hits the fan, you know you can trust him with your life.”