THE stunt business has fallen on hard times since the coronavirus lockdown set in.

When large gatherings were banned, the industry was all but wiped out overnight.

Few have been hit as hard as hand-to-hand combat specialists such as Wayne de Strete.

The 56-year-old has fought Gerard Butler in Dubai, twice abseiled down the Royal Albert Hall and is a dab hand with a gun or sword.

But his weapons haven’t left the cupboard at his Portslade home for weeks as there is little work to be had now.

“It’s been horrendous,” said Wayne.

“I’m trying to remain optimistic, but the whole business just collapsed overnight.

“Before, when my phone rang, I’d be excited – someone would be calling me up for a gig.

“But as soon as big gatherings were banned, everything started getting cancelled. I dreaded answering the phone.

“I lost three months’ work in 48 hours.”

Wayne comes from a family of stunt actors.

He has seen two recessions and work come and go, but nothing like this before.

The film sets he works on are near-impossible to virus-proof. Ordinarily, they would be thronging with make-up teams, crews and actors and social distancing is simply not practical.

Some stunts, Wayne said, could just about work such as car scenes and falls, where fewer people have to be on set.

But most require large teams to put together.

Rigging takes a crew to assemble. Ladders and crash mats would have to be disinfected after each take.

Before a stunt can be filmed, there are hours of preparation and many hands at work behind the scenes.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope.

Demand for fresh TV and film footage is high and there will be a big backlog when shooting eventually resumes.

Wayne said: “People are desperate to see new sequences, but I don’t know how long it will be before we can film them.

“It’s the uncertainty of it – no one can plan and filming takes place months in advance.

“I’ve got a few jobs lined up just before Christmas, but they could still be cancelled.

“And even if restrictions are lifted, it will take a long time for the business to get back on its feet.

“You’ve got to put public health above finance though.

“It’s a tough decision, but you can’t put work above saving lives.

“There’s still a long long way to go for our industry.”