WHEN many of the contenders for the BDO World Darts Championships convened this weekend, it’s probably fair to say not many had tales of preparing alongside Hollywood actor Billy Bob Thornton.
Most of those landing at Lakeside are more likely to recall throwing arrows at a board in the garage, or maybe practising down at the local over a couple of pints.
Those spending hours at the oche at home or in the Dog & Duck wouldn’t have expected to stumble across Oscar-winning actors while sharpening their skills with the arrows.
But since when has Dorset darts star Scott Mitchell done things the conventional way?
After making a late start in the sport, Mitchell was in and out of his county side for a number of years before finding his form, becoming an England international and making his name by commentating as well as playing at the showpiece event at Lakeside.
But even when asked to throw in place of actors and teach the film stars vital techniques on the set of London Fields – an adaptation of Martin Amis’s novel – little did Mitchell know about the array of stars he was about to meet with Thornton joined by lead actress and Johnny Depp’s partner Amber Heard, while British actor Jim Sturgess held the main role of darts player.
“They had been told I was pretty easy going and said they were looking for someone who could make their own fun during what would be long days on the set,” said Mitchell.
“I didn’t ask about money or anything else because I knew it would be something I would never get to do again. I just jumped at the chance.
“One of the characters was a beer-swilling, womanising darts player, so it would be fair to say the stereotype is alive and well!
“They filmed Jim Strugess, who had been with Bobby George for a couple of days, throwing at the board before cutting to me to throwing the darts where they needed to go. A lot of it involved trick shots to try and get the camera to film the darts from different angles.
“Next thing I knew they just walked Billy Bob Thornton in and said ‘Can you teach him to throw a dart?’ I couldn’t believe it.
“It was totally out of the blue because they told me it was a low budget film so I didn’t expect to know any of the people there.
“He was an absolute gentleman. He was so easy to teach, he took it all in and away he went. He wasn’t at all bad.”
And with the time consuming nature of filming over several locations – including the Three Mills Studio in West Ham and the Alexandra Palace – during September and October last year, Mitchell revealed the joy for his beloved sport quickly spread throughout both cast and crew.
“When I was practising in the corner, he (Thornton) would come up with Theo James and have a throw to pass the time.
“Billy didn’t know whether he would have the time to continue doing it at home but he said he was thinking about getting a board. No one had realised what a social sport it is before.
“In the end, we had a little darts club going with people from all over the set. People from lighting, riggers, actors, assistant directors and make-up girls, everyone just joined in playing round the board.”
And Mitchell, who kicks off his fifth attempt at the BDO crown tomorrow, insisted the experience would only stand him in good stead as he steps under his own spotlight at Lakeside.
“It was the most amazing thing to be part of for about five weeks. I had a walk-on part as an extra as myself and sat in the background in a couple of pub scenes.
“It was a completely different world, crazy, but was very enjoyable to do. That was the second time Bobby (George) had been involved and he’s been around 35 years, so I was grateful after spending just five years on the darts scene.
“For my darts, it was really good practice as well. It wasn’t a hindrance because it made you feel good about yourself.
“Darts is all about confidence and I am sure it did the ego some good because I won in Belgium and reached the semi-final of the British Open around that time too.”