A kids rugby union coach landed a top role in the latest Tom Hardy series after a chance meeting in a park – with the megastar’s DOG.
Danny Ligairi, 45, was training his under-14 team when a mutt ran onto the field and stopped play four-and-a-half years ago.
He petted the golden Labrador to calm it down when he heard his excited players saying: “It’s Tom Hardy,” behind him.
The Mad Max and Legend star walked over to Danny and said: “Dogs know good people,” before chatting with him for over an hour in Richmond Park, London.
Danny said they bonded over his father, Ilisoni Ligaria, a former SAS major and the pair kept in contact afterwards.
But the former Harlequins winger was stunned when the producers of Taboo called him in January this year asking him to audition.
Hardy put Fijian Danny forward for the part of a Polynesian character in the Ridley Scott drama about the East India Trading Company set in the 1800s.
Despite having no previous acting experience, the part-time university rugby coach landed the role and is one of the key characters who features in six out of eight episodes.
Dad-of-three Danny, who lives between Worcester and Richmond with partner Nina Ratu, 46, said: “I was coaching Richmond under-14s at the time.
“This dog ran on the field and started running round, so I thought the quickest way to calm it down would be to stroke him.
“I was bent down with him when all the team started saying: ‘It’s Tom Hardy, it’s Tom Hardy.’
“I said, ‘Who? The rugby player?’ I thought they meant Tom Croft. They said: ‘No, Bane from Batman.’
“I turned round and there was Tom Hardy, he said: ‘Dogs know good people.’
“Then we got talking and he stayed chatting with me and the whole team for well over an hour.
“We got talking about my dad who was an SAS major, because Tom was doing an action role and I said he could maybe offer him some advice.
“He was asking me loads of questions then went away and did some research, called me back and said: ‘Your dad’s a legend’.
“I saw him a few times after that – we were papped once with people saying I was his fitness coach, when really we were just going for a walk.
“But then out of the blue I got a call in January from the Taboo producers.
“They said: ‘Get on a train to London, it’s to do with Tom Hardy’. I thought they were joking.
“Three days later I was sat in my own trailer with security outside and people running around after me.
“It was surreal.
“The rumour on set was they were looking for this character and Tom turned around and said, ‘I know this guy, ask him if he wants to do it’ and that’s what happened.”
Danny, who has set up kids rugby camps since 1993 and was head-hunted to coach the Richmond junior side in 2011, plays a character called Martinez.
He is seen rowing through underground tunnels and taking part in dramatic fight scenes in the series which starts next Saturday on BBC One.
Danny added: “It was mad because I really do have absolutely no acting experience.
“In the auditions it was very action based.
“Because of my rugby I was able to lift people up by their neck, throw people around, and had the discipline to move around correctly.
“People were asking me if I had a stuntman licence – I guess my sporting background made me a natural.
“I don’t know what the part was originally but I think I developed it a lot. I was telling them how Polynesian’s would be at the time, and told them I thought I should be a slave child.
“I think the role probably grew around me, maybe it wasn’t originally meant to be such a big talking part.
“It’s just totally surreal. I’ve been meeting all these megastars – I was at the Rogue One launch the other day.
“At the wrap party, Tom gave me a hug and said: ‘See you on the other side, your life is about to change.’
“Everyone else has been in films already, I haven’t.
“It’s mad, but I’ve made clear that whatever happens I have to keep coaching my rugby. That’s what I love.”
The BBC series begins at 9.15pm on Saturday, January 7.