Let's admit it. We're all suckers for a "where are they now?" post. So if you're wondering what Ultimate Gladiator James Crossley (aka Hunter) is up to now, then get your reading glasses, folks.
Who is James Crossley?
Gladiators star Hunter (real name James Crossley) is best known for being the youngest gladiator to compete on the ITV show. At just 19 years old, Hunter became part of the Gladiators cast from 1993, alongside fellow members Wolf (Michael Van Wijk), Trojan (Mike Griffin), Jet (Diane Youdale), Ace (Warren Furman), Lightning (Kim Betts), Saracen (Mike Lewis), Cobra (Michael Wilson), Falcon (Bernadette Hunt) and Amazon (Sharron Davies), to name but a few.
Before Hunter joined Gladiators, he had already built a reputation for himself in national bodybuilding competitions representing Great Britain, winning Mr York and Mr England when he was 15 years old. Despite the impressive spotlight on this former Gladiators contestant, James Crossley originally wanted to become Mr Universe. The Hull-born legend was in for a very different road, but one that would still bring him sweet success.
The British television show "Gladiators" emulated the brutal Ancient Roman games, where enslaved gladiators would compete in the Colosseum to the death, in honour of the Emperor.
Obviously, the 90s show was less gruesome and more humane, but still required the contestants to compete against each other to a faux death (often falling to a crash mat). The Emperor in this case was TV presenter, Ulrika Jonsson, who introduced the international gladiators every Saturday night.
These sports games were a battle of strength and wits, in which two female and two male gladiators would compete for the championship title awarded in the finale episode of each series. These crazy games included the dreaded Hang Tough (a chess game played in the air), as well as Poleaxe and The Wall. And let's not forget those incredible lycra costumes!
One such memorable event which would give Russell Crowe a run for his money was the Battle of the Giants, when Gladiators Hunter and Ace went head to head. Imagine an obstacle course, where every turn is met with a twist. Hunter sprinted, vaulted, crawled and leaped to the finish line - even overcoming his biggest nemisis: the seesaw. The crowd roared, the nation cheered. Yes, we were entertained!
Hunter created a legacy for himself, and was crowned "Ultimate Gladiator", after the battle – one of the biggest showdowns in history. He was undoubtedly the most popular gladiator, with his British charm and rippling biceps, in contrast to the Big Bad Wolf (Van Wijk) whom the nation loved to hate.
The Dark Truth of the Gladiators
Despite Hunter's incredible performance throughout the show, it was an incredibly demanding role to fulfill. James Crossley recently disclosed that he had dislocated his shoulder six times! In an interview with Metro, James revealed:
"Because of the time restriction of the show I could never get it properly sorted. That would have meant being out for seven months."
In fact, though the gladiators were fit and strong, with many adept in athletics from a young age, they filmed two shows in one day. So while they competed live in Wembley and Sheffield, it wasn't actually broadcast on ITV until Saturday night. Coupled with the fact that they trained outside the show's filming hours to maintain their form, there was no time for dilly-dallying.
James went on to say that training for Gladiators was also intense, and they only had two days to practice.
"I would box on a podium with my feet tied together, climb the local climbing wall with a weighted backpack, push cars around a car park". And we groan about a 30-minute gym session...
James jetted over to South Africa to compete in the Springbok Challenge, but the show didn't last long overseas. Gladiators ended in 2000, running for eight series in total, with Hunter being an original cast member for seven consecutive series.
A Strong Man Gig
James Crossley didn't leave his training days behind him, gravitating towards becoming a Strong Man in the next stint of his career. You may have come across the likes of Geoff Capes, Brian Shaw and Eddie Hall in the past, and now you can add James Crossley onto your list.
One of the most challenging events in the Strong Man world is the Dinnie Stones. Two large lumps of granite located in Aberdeen, Scotland, and weighing a whopping 332.49kg (that's the equivalent of 3 Hunters). But Crossley took to the challenge, shoulders braced and chest puffed. And surprise, surprise, in May 2018, he broke the world record for the Dinnie Stones. Is there nothing he can't do?!
Breaking into TV and Theatre
After eight years of Gladiators, James Crossley became a huge television personality, with notable appearances on Ready, Steady, Cook! and Celebrity Juice. But the star also had an acting bit on the side, featuring in episodes of Emmerdale, Lexx and The Upper Hand.
With a number of acting jobs on TV, James then took to the stage. He was cast as Charles in one of Shakespeare's most classic plays "As You Like It", eventually touring USA. Suffice to say, James Crossley is a man of many talents, clearly keeping busy even though he's in his late forties.
James then ventured into another avenue, airing his own fitness show on ITV called "Peak Performance".
James v Gemma
James' most recent performance was on Channel 4's game show The Circle in April 2021. This series mimics the world of social media, in which oblivious strangers must try to convince the other of their true or fake identity.
In an odd turn of events, James Crossley decided to pretend to be Nurse Gemma from the NHS. He pledged beforehand that if he won, he would donate the cash prize (a nice sum of £100,000) to the NHS, but he was booted off the show pretty quickly.
When James revealed his true identity to a very unsuspecting Andy Smith, viewers were left in shock. It was a pretty controversial choice of character, especially considering the events of coronavirus and the strain on nurses at the time.
From TV Star to Personal Trainer
Over the years, James Crossley would evolve from Gladiators to TV and then just a regular gym guy. However, the former gladiator now opts for a more 'pain-free' approach to training and life in general. In an interview with the Mail, James revealed it was hard for him to break from the competitive mindset that was drilled into him from a young age. He says:
"I've always been very competitive. This can be quite a negative thing as you get older. I was competitive as a bodybuilder. I was competitive as a Gladiator and a Strong Man so it took me a while to get rid of that competition."
Instead, the star prefers yoga, playing the didgeridoo and even hand pan drums, which gives him "a real purpose".
But James Crossley is still a big name in the sports industry, and now runs his own successful consultancy business as a personal trainer, alongside Ace (Warren Furman) called Chelsea Fitness. The bodybuilder turned fitness instructor also built his own app: "PT in 1" for other like-minded personal trainers looking to improve their teaching techniques.
James' Secrets on Fitness
It's clear that James is big on health and fitness. Whether it's for show or personal gain, he is one of those crazy people who just loves to work out.
However, to the majority, going to the gym and eating healthy can seem intimidating. That's why James has now made it his personal mission to help others reach their goals, even developing his own DVD for over 40s to help them get fit.
During lockdown, James prioritised his health and sanity instead of wrecking his body, admitting he went "a bit too far". Gone are the days of Hang Tough, and a warm welcome to yoga – which he originally took up during Gladiators to help with his flexibility in some of the games.
In an interview with the Metro, James shared a few of his secrets. He believes it's important to be mindful of food choices, commit to 20 minutes of movement a day, hydrate, and record everything you eat in a diary. Essentially, it's about being conscious and strict with yourself, but also doing things you enjoy. If you prefer fencing over weight training, then you have your answer!
The Gladiators champion also said: "Prioritise your time. You want to live longer and that means putting in the work. If you have time to watch a movie you have time to be healthy."
Where are the Gladiators Cast Members Now?
Here's what we've managed to track down about the Gladiators' whereabouts so far. Gladiator Jet (real name Diane Youdale) is now a psychotherapist and pilates instructor, while Wolf returned to New Zealand and is now part of the Kiwi cage fighting scene at the ripe age of 69, compared to his younger counterparts.
Sharron (Amazon) is a TV presenter, hosting the popular show Big Breakfast and regularly reports with sports coverage.
Athletics champ, Kim Betts, is a successful entrepreneur and runs her own beauty parlour – who says women can't do both?
Cobra (real name Michael Wilson) became somewhat of a TV personality, who was Big Brother's bit of nostalgia in 2019. He also confessed that he was "bleeding drunk" for the majority of the games in Gladiators. So that's why he struggled to climb up The Wall... However, Wilson also delivers motivational speeches to school kids. Aww!
James Crossley now invests his time into his business, spending less time on bodybuilding and competing. Although he can still pack a punch! The former gladiator also opened up to some saucy behaviour behind the scenes, claiming that he dated Ulrika Jonsson for a couple of years. So yes, the stories are true.
While You're Here
Did you know that you can get a personalised video message from Gladiator's Hunter right here? If you're looking for some motivation for the gym, or a fun birthday message, book now and don't miss out!