Magic tricks have taken Steel Johnson from the front line in Afghanistan towards a new life performing the timeless art of deception to audiences that include actors Tom Hardy and Gerard Butler plus Her Royal Highness Princess Anne.
After a decade with the Royal Marines witnessing the horrors of war, Steel, real name James, decided to pursue his passion and become a magician.
Magic was something that fascinated Steel as a child but he resisted it because it wasn't "cool". Instead, he chose a career in the armed forces.
WATCH: Steel speaks to Verity and Richard on the Forces Radio BFBS breakfast show
Even though he wanted to be a Royal Marine, Steel joined the British Army first because he didn't think he was good enough to be a bootneck. He said:
"I did an early tour of Iraq in 2004/2005 and I was thinking, I can do more than this and it was after that tour that I then applied for the marines."
Steel found Afghanistan tough and didn't enjoy it. He was based at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Gibraltar in Helmand Province. He said:
"It was just a bit of a scrap in FOB and this was 2008/2009. We had ... quite a tough tour, it was quite relentless."
While speaking to Forces Radio BFBS breakfast show presenters Verity Geere and Richard Hatch, Steel found it difficult to talk about his time in Afghanistan with 45 Commando Royal Marines. He gives an insight into the trauma he experienced on his website. He said:
"It was relentless, there were a lot of casualties. The first one happened after about three weeks of getting out there.
"We were out on a night patrol and when we rounded a corner the guy in front of me stepped on an explosive and lost his leg.
"We carried him back to camp. I’d been up in front of him until just before that point."
Steel spent the last two years of his service as a medic with the Special Boat Service (SBS) but has now swapped his green beret for a sharp suit and a pack of cards.
Something A Little Different
But, it's not just magic that's keeping Steel busy.
Gerard Butler films like 'London Has Fallen' rely on hiring former service personnel like Steel to give the film authenticity.
The former marine played a mercenary alongside Gerard in his latest action film, 'Angel Has Fallen'. About his role in the film Steel said:
"He (Gerard Butler's character) kills me in the film.
"There's a bit where we bust him out, he's handcuffed up, I'm in the passenger seat and he kills me with his handcuffs."
While on set, Steel was able to perform a trick for Gerard (see above) who was visibly flabbergasted. Steel produced a lollipop from a flame, a trick he also performed for Verity and Richard on the breakfast show.
Steel has also performed magic for celebrities like SAS Who Dares Wins Chief Instructor Ant Middleton, Honorary RAF Group Captain Carol Vorderman and royalty like Her Royal Highness Princess Anne at charity dinners and military functions.
Medically Discharged To Civvy Street
During his military career, Steel picked up what he refers to as a "rubbish little injury" which led to him being told he wasn't fit for service. At this point in the interview, Steel is noticeably recalling difficult memories. He said:
"I love the corps, I love the marines so coming out was like that loss of identity, the magic was an unintentional career.
"When I was discharged I went back up to the North East and I didn't really know what I was doing and I had that complete loss of identity and lack of purpose, lack of direction.
"Obviously the magic had been going and now when people said, "can you come and do some magic?" I wasn't in the military so I was like yeah, I can do magic all the time.
"It just snowballed."
Magic Marine Meets Mad Max
Actor Tom Hardy, who stars in films Black Hawk Down, Mad Max and The Dark Knight Rises, is an honorary member of the Royal Marines Corps so Steel has found himself at some of the same events.
Like a true showman, Steel always takes the opportunity to perform for Tom. He said:
"If someone had said to me a year ago, two years ago, you're going to perform for these guys ... I'd be like nah."
A New Career Path On The Horizon?
When Steel's father died of cancer in 2013, only 10 weeks after diagnosis, he knew he had to take action to help his brother Marko, who was struggling with depression. He said:
"Look, we just need to put something in the calendar so that we can work towards something.
"We like history, we like magic and we like adventure and we said, let's do ... a motorbike adventure."
Eventually, they decided to film themselves riding a motorbike from India to the UK. Marko is a history academic and great storyteller so they are planning to retell the history of the route they take while Steel performs magic in the villages they travel through.
Their aim is to raise money and awareness for mental health which Steel says is the "great battle of our time".
They describe themselves as a "two-man Indiana Jones on an adventure of mountains, motorbikes, magic and myth passing through the dawns of civilisation along the old silk road in the footsteps of Genghis Khan, Marco Polo and Alexander The Great."
WATCH: Steel impresses Verity and Richard live on the breakfast show with his unique brand of magic.