SAS Australia's Billy Billingham's shock Penelope Cruz blunder

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·4-min read

SAS Australia star Mark 'Billy' Billingham has shared one of his most memorable stories from his work as a celebrity body guard and it involves accidentally putting Penelope Cruz into a headlock.

Speaking with Nova FM's Fitzy and Wippa, Billy shared the story from around 20 years ago, stunning the hosts.

The SAS: Australia staff
Mark 'Billy' Billingham (pictured far left) revealed he once accidentally put Penelope Cruz into a headlock. Photo: Instagram/billingham22b

"So, basically, I never met Tom [Cruise] before... when I got to the hotel it was supposed to be all incognito, no one was supposed to be there. There was already a crowd of a couple hundred people. I thought, 'Damn I’m on my own how am I going to deal with this?'" he said.

"I grab this guy, this Italian paparazzi who spoke English, and said 'What’s the deal?' He said 'Tom Cruise is coming.'"


Thinking very quickly on his feet, Billy came up with a plan with the paparazzo.

"I said, 'Yes he is coming, I tell you what, I am his bodyguard, here’s the deal. If you don’t give me some space I’m going to take him to another hotel,' he went, 'What?' I go, 'That's what's going to happen, I'm not gonna bring him here!' I had no choice, but he didn't know that."

Mark 'Billy' Billingham on SAS: Who Dares Wins
Billy on SAS: Who Dares Wins in the UK. Photo: Channel 4

"So he said, 'What do you mean?', so I said, 'When we turn up, just leave us alone, everybody moves away from the entrance (there's one way in and out), so let me have a clear walk to the entrance with him and I’ll stop 10 seconds before and you can get your photograph, is that a deal?' He said, 'Yes that’s a deal!'"

The SAS star continued, "So I went I picked up Tom and I talk to him and I said, 'Hey just by the way buddy, letting you know, unfortunately they know you’re coming, there is paparazzi, there’s about 200 people,' and he went 'Oh damn, what do we do?'"

Billy explained the plan to Tom and the actor agreed to follow his lead.

"So, we rock up, by the time we get there there’s about 400 people, I’m like, 'Oh shit.' I get out... couldn’t even see the front of the hotel, So I find this guy [the paparazzi]... and he said something in Italian and it was like parting the waves, I’ve never seen anything like it and everybody just moved out of the way.

Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz dated after filming Vanilla Sky together in 2000. Photo: Getty
Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz dated after filming Vanilla Sky together in 2000. Photo: Getty

"I’m looking at Tom, he’s looking at me going, 'How did you do that?' He gets out of the car, we walk to the front entrance and it was a rotating door which I hate, I can't bloody navigate those things. We get to the door and we get the photographs, we go to step in and I just see out of my periphery a bit of blue so I grabbed him and I grabbed this thing and the three of us fall into this rotating doorway and as I’ve got this thing in the headlock he goes, 'Oh Billy, meet Penelope, my girlfriend!'"

Fitzy and Wippa were stunned to hear the story with Wippa joking, "You've just taken her to the ground!"

Billy added, "We had a proper introduction after that in the elevator."

When asked whether it was difficult to go from being anonymous to becoming a celebrity bodyguard Billy responded, "It was difficult because it’s like anything, you can become comfortable in a life and the zone that you’re in. Then all of a sudden, I got offered a job with the celebrities and I thought okay let me give this ago.

"The weirdest thing about this was I have spent all my life undercover with not letting anyone know what I’m doing, then all of a sudden I went totally 360 and I’m now on every magazine. That was the hardest thing, seeing yourself in a store walking with celebrities."

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