IN a change of roles Robert De Niro would be proud of, North-East actor Stuart Wells has swapped a little white number for battle fatigues.

As the effeminate best friend of Billy Elliot in the hit film, he toyed with wearing a tutu and tried to plant a kiss on the eponymous hero.

But instead of using his sensitive portrayal to pursue a film career, Wells has turned his back on Hollywood and joined the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Wells, 19, from Wallsend, North Tyneside, played Billy's best friend, Michael, in the surprise worldwide hit film of last year.

Also starring in ITV's drama Peak Practice, he recently returned from three months on location in Spain with Hollywood stars Willem Dafoe and Brian Cox filming The Reckoning.

Despite the prospect of fame being dangled before him, Wells was lured into the army by tales of derring-do from his brother, John, 17, who is serving with the fusiliers in Germany.

"I had always wanted to join the army, but got sidetracked from this when Billy Elliot became a big hit," said the young actor.

Major Brian Young, senior recruiter at the Newcastle Armed Forces Careers Office, said: "Stuart will now be able to build himself the kind of career he's always wanted."