Dougie the pizza delivery boy Diarmid Heidenreich reveals the moment his life ...

Dougie the pizza boy is really Diarmid the elevator man and has been for 26 years. He's a full-time father, onetime prisoner and sometime philosopher as well. 

He once shared a cell with a rapist and had another inmate pull a knife on him but had been taught to fight by a professional boxer so he could hold his own in jail. 

Before that he was a television star who was paid $1,000 an hour to get drunk with fans in night clubs and pubs until his out-of-control world collapsed around him.

Diarmid Heidenreich - 'D' to his friends - was a 17-year-old student and part-time Pizza Hut worker when he was asked to audition for an acting job that would change his life forever.

Soon his cheeky grin would light up lounge rooms around the nation as he played Dougie the delivery boy in a series of hugely successful television commercials.

At age 19 Heidenreich made another fateful decision: to drive his girlfriend home after a late night out when he should never have been behind the wheel.

Heidenreich began playing Dougie the pizza boy in 1993. Soon his cheeky grin would light up lounge rooms around the nation in a series of wildly successful television commercials. He is pictured this week helping to promote Pizza Hut's 50th anniversary in Australia

Heidenreich began playing Dougie the pizza boy in 1993. Soon his cheeky grin would light up lounge rooms around the nation in a series of wildly successful television commercials. He is pictured this week helping to promote Pizza Hut's 50th anniversary in Australia

Pizza Hut ambassador Dougie the pizza boy is played by Diarmid Heidenreich, who is an elevator repairman by trade. Heidenreich was a 17-year-old student and part-time Pizza Hut worker when he was asked to audition for an acting job that would change the course of his life

Pizza Hut ambassador Dougie the pizza boy is played by Diarmid Heidenreich, who is an elevator repairman by trade. Heidenreich was a 17-year-old student and part-time Pizza Hut worker when he was asked to audition for an acting job that would change the course of his life

Heidenreich's main priority is his family. He married journalist Genevieve Quigley in 2003 and the couple has two children, Ivory, 15, and Jasper, 12. The family is pictured

Heidenreich's main priority is his family. He married journalist Genevieve Quigley in 2003 and the couple has two children, Ivory, 15, and Jasper, 12. The family is pictured

The resultant crash left his girlfriend with three broken limbs and needing cosmetic surgery. Heidenreich was not as seriously injured but did not escape unscathed.

He was arrested, put before the courts and eventually jailed for 18 months of periodic detention, initially served behind the stone walls of Parramatta Gaol.

From wild teenager to settled father-of-two, Heidenreich's story is a powerful insight into accepting the consequences of youthful mistakes and he embraces it all. 

The now 44-year-old has been brought back by Pizza Hut to help promote the chain's celebrations of its 50th anniversary in Australia.

When Daily Mail Australia sat down with Heidenreich for an exclusive interview this week he was in a reflective mood and nothing in his past was off limits.

He spoke about his conflicted childhood, that first big break in acting, the challenging time in prison and how he went about rebuilding his life and career.

'There's a lot that I'm sorry for and there's a lot that I regret from that time,' Heidenreich says. 'I regret it every day. I was 19 years of age when I had my accident and at 44 I'm still accountable.

'The idea of getting punished is that people move on from it. But that's not the way that it works. It sticks with you. It sticks with you forever. 

'The one thing I can do with it now is teach my kids to not make those same mistakes, because I've never hidden it from them.' 

Heidenreich starred as Dougie the pizza boy in a series of television commercials which began when he was just 17. By his estimate he has shot 37 commercials in the past 27 years

Heidenreich starred as Dougie the pizza boy in a series of television commercials which began when he was just 17. By his estimate he has shot 37 commercials in the past 27 years

When Daily Mail Australia sat down with Heidenreich for an exclusive interview this week he was in a reflective mood and nothing in his past was off limits. Heidenreich spoke about his conflicted childhood, his first big break in acting and the challenging time in prison

When Daily Mail Australia sat down with Heidenreich for an exclusive interview this week he was in a reflective mood and nothing in his past was off limits. Heidenreich spoke about his conflicted childhood, his first big break in acting and the challenging time in prison

Young Diarmid (pronounced DEER-mid) was a reckless teen, pushing himself to various limits and surfing the notoriously dangerous reef break off Cronulla known as Shark Island.

He helped his father build cars down the side of the family home and played Second XV rugby at an all-boys Catholic college. He also had to dance on stage with girls.

'I've got four sisters and a brother,' Heidenreich says. 'My dad was a fitter and turner by trade and my mum's a nurse. They worked and they needed us not to be idle.

I had to be more than just a bloke, I had to be the bravest, the stupidest, all of that 

'Having four sisters, they went to dancing and with two brothers we were outnumbered by four sisters and we had to go to dancing too.'

Dancing on stage was not something many private school boys did in the early 1990s and Heidenreich felt he had to continually strut his masculinity. 

'I played rugby, it brought out the worst in me,' he says. 'I surfed in very dangerous surfing spots. It was always like I had to prove myself.

'I had to be more than just a bloke, I had to be the bravest, the stupidest, all of that.'

Heidenreich was in his final year of school when he followed some of his surfing mates into a job at Caringbah Pizza Hut in Sydney's south.

He began as a 'dish pig' - the lowest job in the store - and on busy nights helped fill the bain-marie for the all-you-can-eat buffets known as 'The Works'.

Diarmid, pictured with three of his four sisters, was on of six siblings. His father was a fitter and turner and his mother a nurse. All the children were encouraged to perform

Diarmid, pictured with three of his four sisters, was on of six siblings. His father was a fitter and turner and his mother a nurse. All the children were encouraged to perform  

'Having four sisters, they went to dancing and with two brothers we were outnumbered by four sisters and we had to go to dancing too,' Heidenreich says. He is pictured with other dancers

'Having four sisters, they went to dancing and with two brothers we were outnumbered by four sisters and we had to go to dancing too,' Heidenreich says. He is pictured with other dancers

'I played rugby, it brought out the worst in me,' Heidenreich says. 'I surfed in very dangerous surfing spots. It was always like I had to prove myself.' As a child Heidenreich's interest in the arts was not understood. He is pictured in a production of Oliver Twist

'I played rugby, it brought out the worst in me,' Heidenreich says. 'I surfed in very dangerous surfing spots. It was always like I had to prove myself.' As a child Heidenreich's interest in the arts was not understood. He is pictured in a production of Oliver Twist

'Apparently I was very good at washing dishes so no one was in a rush to get me out of washing dishes,' he says.

Heidenreich was asked to audition for a television commercial for Pizza Hut on a day he was working a shift, so he went in his uniform. He got the gig and began filming in late 1993.

Dougie the pizza boy was an immensely likeable character, who was immediately popular with Australian families.

'He was just a cheeky smarty-pants who was making a bit of money on the side and would always have the last say,' Heidenreich says. 'But he did it with a smile on his face.

'I learnt that you could do anything with a smile on your face. But as soon as you dropped the smile you were in trouble. 

'That's what it taught me about the character - a little glint in the eye, a wink and a smile, and it was OK.' 

Heidenreich attended an all-boys Catholic school and began working at Pizza Hut before he completed Year 12. After school he began building elevators, an industry he still works in

Heidenreich attended an all-boys Catholic school and began working at Pizza Hut before he completed Year 12. After school he began building elevators, an industry he still works in 

Heidenreich (pictured) was a reckless teenager, pushing himself to the limit and surfing the notoriously dangerous reef break off Cronulla known as Shark Island

Heidenreich (pictured) was a reckless teenager, pushing himself to the limit and surfing the notoriously dangerous reef break off Cronulla known as Shark Island

Dougie became a hit while Heidenreich was still working at Pizza Hut. Diners were soon recognising him on the restaurant floor and he decided 'it was too close to my reality'.

'One night I just went to my boss and I said I can't come in again, it's too much.'

But Heidenreich kept shooting TV commercials for Pizza Hut and has appeared in what he estimates to be 37 advertisements in the past 27 years.

He had been performing since he was a child but didn't always enjoy the public attention. 

Heidenreich's parents insisted he got a real job when he left school, rather than just act

Heidenreich's parents insisted he got a real job when he left school, rather than just act

'From an early age I had to fight for my masculinity - physically and mentally - and I think once I started doing these ads and getting the notoriety I didn't like it,' he says.

'I liked being in the arts but also being able to retreat into myself and I couldn't do that anymore.

'I was getting recognised for it and there was no escape from it and I didn't have any mechanism to cope with it.'

The Dougie ads featured during big football games and other prime-time viewing. Heidenreich made regular appearances on the Footy Show.

'I never really understood the phenomenon and I don't think I ever really dealt with it,' he says. 

'I think when I was doing it I was probably more embarrassed because I guess I wasn't the character and people, when they'd run into me, they'd think I was.' 

While Heidenreich was earning good money from the Pizza Hut commercials, acting was only something he did on the side. His main job was building elevators, an industry he still works in today.

Heidenreich is happy to be back with Pizza Hut reprising his old character. 'If I can make one person smile right now in the middle of all this I'm stoked,' he says

Heidenreich is happy to be back with Pizza Hut reprising his old character. 'If I can make one person smile right now in the middle of all this I'm stoked,' he says

'Going to work on elevators and building something for a living made sense,' Heidenreich says. 'I did it from the get-go and I still do it now.' He is pictured on his way to work this week

'Going to work on elevators and building something for a living made sense,' Heidenreich says. 'I did it from the get-go and I still do it now.' He is pictured on his way to work this week 

'As soon as I finished school my parents both made it very clear that if I was going to live under their roof I was going to work in a real-world job,' he says.

'Going to work on elevators and building something for a living made sense. I did it from the get-go and I still do it now.'

'Dougie' was making Heidenreich a national celebrity but his young life was spiralling out of control. 'I'm very lucky we didn't have Facebook,' he says. 'I was a wild kid.

'I was doing nightclub appearances at $1,000 an hour. I was getting paid to go to a pub and get drunk and I'd do three or four of them a night.

'I was flying around Australia every weekend getting paid to get drunk with people.' 

After a long, late session in March 1996, Heidenreich's world came apart when he slammed a Nissan Patrol into a tree in the affluent eastern Sydney suburb of Vaucluse.

He had been at a media function then gone to the Goodbar club at Paddington before visiting friends and calling it a night in the early hours of the morning. 

The four-wheel drive clipped another vehicle, hit a dumpster bin and went over a gutter before coming to a rest when it hit the tree.  

'He was just a cheeky smarty-pants who was making a bit of money on the side and would always have the last say,' Heidenreich says of Dougie. 'But he did it with a smile on his face'

'He was just a cheeky smarty-pants who was making a bit of money on the side and would always have the last say,' Heidenreich says of Dougie. 'But he did it with a smile on his face'

'I learnt that you could do anything with a smile on your face,' Heidenreich told Daily Mail Australia 'But as soon as you dropped the smile you were in trouble'

Heidenreich's bottom lip was torn off and he bit through his tongue when his head hit the steering wheel. His girlfriend ended up under the dashboard and suffered two broken arms and a fractured leg. Neither had been wearing a seat belt.

His memory of the accident is hazy but Heidenreich thinks he might have wandered into a church cemetery where he was found by a priest.  

The 19-year-old was charged with a string of offences, including driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. For a while he was called Druggie the pizza boy.

'I made a lot of stupid mistakes when I was young,' Heidenreich says. 'That was probably the stupidest mistake I ever made, driving.

I made a lot of stupid mistakes when I was young. That was probably the stupidest mistake I ever made, driving

'It hurt a lot of people, especially family and obviously my girlfriend at the time's family, and I've been judged because of it every day since.

'It's affected everything and it put me into a lot of negative places as a young bloke which a lot of young guys shouldn't have to visit but I didn't shy away from it.'

Heidenreich knew he was facing a prison sentence and began preparing himself for life behind bars.

'At that time a mate of mine, Johnny Clayton, grabbed hold of me and said, "You know, you're going to be tested like you've never been tested before".' 

Clayton sent Heidenreich off to a boxer who had fought for an Australian light

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