He calls himself the "Pole Ninja" while taking on the formidable Australian Ninja Warrior course this season, but there's more than what meets the eye with Ben Toyer. The 27-year-old's established himself as a go-to stuntman and trainer working alongside the likes of Sam Frost, Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio – as well as running his Sydney studio The Pole Parlour with girlfriend Elle Lacroix. Busy boy!
NW swung in to his studio to chat in between routines.
Hey Benji! So what made you want to compete on ANW?
Ben: I wanted to compete on the first season but we were just about to launch our pole studio. As soon as I watched the series, I knew I had to apply for this one.
Did you feel your stuntman background would help you?
Ben: Definitely. I was sure I could give the course a good go because of my work doing big stunts on film and TV sets. I actually knew a few contestants from last series, so I really wanted to see how I would do compared to them. Plus, I knew my background in pole would help me to compete in some of the challenges as well.
How did you get into pole dancing?
Ben: It was actually because of the film Mad Max: Fury Road, which I worked on. I started getting pole lessons because I knew the stunts would involve pole work. But then I started training properly and I won an amateur competition. Soon I was competing in national tournaments.
How did the course compare to stunt and pole work?
Ben: Ninja is the single hardest thing I've ever done. On a set, it's very explosive and difficult, but the camera is only rolling for about a minute at a time. I'm not a good endurance runner, so that intensity run was tough. I didn't think I would struggle with it as much as I did.
Working as a stuntman probably means you've got a long list of celeb friends, right?
Ben: Dish it up! [Laughs] I got to work with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire on The Great Gatsby, Sam Worthington on Hacksaw Ridge, Gerard Butler on Gods Of Egypt and Angelina Jolie when she directed Unbroken. I was on set for Sam Frost's first day on Home And Away. We were filming a massive explosion for Pia Miller's final scene and she was like, "Is it like this every day?"
Jealous... We're just doing the maths here, and considering you can work the pole and have famous mates, you're in a good position to create Magic Mike 3!
Ben: Yes! Pole would be a huge spin-off for a film one day. A lot of pole dancers are still strippers because that's where it all started. In our studio, we run a competition for girls called Stiletto, which involves wearing the classic stripper heels.
Which celebs would you most like to see in your studio?
Ben: I would love to give Channing Tatum a lesson in pole. The fact Magic Mike was based around Channing's life as stripper before he started acting is amazing to me. That would be awesome...or maybe Mark Wahlberg. Can you imagine if we got Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch in? I think they would be great for the film! The outlook on pole has changed so much in the past few years and I just want that to keep going.
Australia Ninja Warrior premieres Sunday 8pm on Nine.