Big Boys Don’t Cry: Who is personal trainer Paul Connolly?

The film Big Boys Don’t Cry is based on the true story of one man’s childhood and early adult life.

The British drama was released in 2020, but was only added to Netflix on 23 December and has fast become one of the most popular films on the streaming platform.

Its storyline follows a man who recalls his harrowing experience growing up in an abusive children’s home.

In the film, the main character, Paul Connolly (played by Michael Socha), is forced to confront his demonds after the death of a childhood friend.

Big Boys Don’t Cry is based on the ghost-written biography that tells the story of Connolly’s shocking childhood, with some parts of the film being fiction.

Connolly, who has since turned his life in the opposite direction and published two autobiographical books, is the inspiration behind the protagonist in the moving film.

Who is Paul Connolly?

Connolly was abandoned in a dustbin as a two-week-old baby and later suffered years of abuse at the St Leonard’s children’s home in Hornchurch, Essex, where children were routinely subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

St Leonard’s was a children’s home in Essex that was operated by Tower Hamlets London Borough Council. It operated from the late Sixties until the early Eighties.

Aged 15, Connolly was expelled from secondary school. He was on the way to becoming a professional boxer but a hand injury put an end to his fighting career.

Connolly, whose life experience forms the basis of Big Boys Don’t Cry , now works as a celebrity fitness trainer and is a father of two.

‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’ is based on Paul Connolly’s real life experiences (Netflix)
‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’ is based on Paul Connolly’s real life experiences (Netflix)

Connolly’s 2010 memoir, Against All Odds, in which he wrote about surviving his horrific childhood and becoming a personal trainer to a number of celebrities, details how he learnt to read aged 25.

He went on to receive a qualification to become a gym instructor.

Connolly worked with supermodel Elle Macpherson on her workout video The Body. He now trains celebrities including Chantelle Houghton from Celebrity Big Brother. He has established himself as a personal trainer and a specialist conditioning coach, based in Essex.

In 2012, Connolly backed the Evening Standard’s literacy campaign, which raised money to send volunteer reading mentors into London schools to read with children.

If you are a child and you need help because something has happened to you, you can call the NSPCC free of charge on 0800 1111. You can also call the NSPCC if you are an adult and you are worried about a child, on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adults on 0808 801 0331.

If you’re worried about a child, even if you’re unsure, you can contact professional counsellors at the NSPCC for help, advice and support by emailing or calling 0808 800 5000. For those aged 18 or under, Childline offers free, confidential advice and support whatever your concern and whenever you need help. Call 0800 1111 or Contact Childline.