Our gutsy insurance man conquered the heights and faked it as a stuntman. Elliot Lane watched the action

Standing in a pub, the young barman turns and in hushed tones says: "Excuse me, I know this sounds weird, but was your friend over there talking to Lorraine Kelly on GMTV this morning?"

Yes he was. The "friend" in question is Matt Davies, IT specialist in Skandia's Southampton office, who had his 15 minutes of fame last Wednesday as the insurance man transformed into a daredevil for Channel 4's Faking It.

"It is totally surreal," he says when he hears of his first fan, "and I haven't even seen the finished programme yet."

It is the day the show will air and Davies is nervous. He is worried that the edit will leave him looking a "prat".

After answering the advertisement on the Insurance Times website, he fought off 2,000 other applicants to get an interview.

"They spent most of the time asking me questions. Every time I asked what would happen, or how things would work, the production team gave very little away. So the whole thing was a blind leap of faith."

What the production crew did find out was Davies' phobia of heights. As soon has he admitted this, the reaction was: "Oh, good."

He adds: "Nothing is staged about the show. It is warts and all."

Once picked, Skandia were "brilliant" and allowed him the month off work. He wasn't allowed to tell family or friends what was happening. He had also split from his girlfriend three weeks earlier, so was very much a free agent. Which is why his mum saw him off on the train.

But then they all found out. "You probably won't see this in the programme, but they made me sing karaoke with my mates before leaving. And the song was "I will survive".

Davies was subjected to an intense physical test which his mentor Morgan oversaw. The on-screen fireworks were real, he admitted.

"He was an ex-Marine PT instructor. The most intimidating bloke I have ever met. I was hungover from the Sunday night and had the worst gym session ever.

"When I did my first gymnastics lesson, it was described as watching `a basket of washing thrown across the mat' - I was officially crap. No co-ordination at all and Morgan gave me a hard time for it. He took the army way of dealing with things. So I said I'm not some 17-year-old recruit. This caused some tension."

Practising solidly for up to 11 hours a day, Davies said that in the end, even with a horrendous bruise he suffered, his focus was to fool the judges. Plus the programme makers had to make an insurance claim when he sustained a whiplash injury.

"And the insurer has paid up for the medical treatment," he says. It wasn't Skandia.

But being a stuntman brought some exciting rewards. "I can now pull off a proper handbrake turn and blasting off an AK47 in the firing range was superb."

So why come back to the pen-pushing life of the sensible insurance man? With a sigh he admits he is "too old".

"At 31, I would have to train for another four years, which will mean my career would probably only last a couple more years.

But if any TV company wants to offer me work, I'll have a look," he adds with a grin.

For those who didn't see the programme he beat his fear of heights and scraped through. The one judge who did spot him as a fake, in fact, was an actor on the ITV drama The Bill. He had seen Davies visit the set one day to pick up tips on staging fight scenes.

Davies is still good friends with his mentors, even Morgan, and would go through the whole agony again. "I still keep in touch with the other `fakers' as we call ourselves."

Other than the fast cars, were there any fast women? Rolling his eyes to the ceiling and letting out a whistle he says: "The women who hang out with stuntmen ... that was an eye-opener."

Any tales? "I'm the perfect gentleman and would not divulge that...though I would like to put on record I'm still single."

And ladies, he doesn't live with his mum...

Personal file
Favourite stunt: Opening stunt in Goldeneye: "I have the utmost respect for the guy who jumped off the dam. That's balls."

Favourite football team: The Saints (aka Southampton to the uninitiated)

Favourite book: Boiling a Frog by Christopher Brookmyre

Favourite TV show: Rhubarb and Custard

Where you see yourself in five years: "The next James Bond."