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26th Oct 2023

Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter stunt double speaks about the scene which left him paralysed

Charlie Herbert

Harry Potter stunt double

The Harry Potter stunt double reflected on his ‘tragic’ accident

For several years, David Holmes probably had one of the biggest stunt double jobs in the world after he was cast as Daniel Radcliffe’s double for the Harry Potter films.

After landing the job for the Philosopher’s Stone when he was spotted by stunt coordinator Greg Powell, the then-gymnast stood in for Radcliffe for action scenes involving everything from broomsticks to motorbikes.

But his life changed forever in 2009 when he had a tragic accident during filming for the penultimate Harry Potter film, Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

Holmes was rehearsing a flying scene at Warner Bros Studios, Leavesden, which involved him being ‘jerked back’ at speed by a wire to replicate the impact of an explosion.

However, Holmes hit a wall and broke his neck, paralysing him from the chest down.

Speaking about the accident to the Mirror in 2014, Holmes said: “I hit the wall and then landed on the crash mat underneath. My stunt co-ordinator grabbed my hand and said, ‘Squeeze my fingers’. I could move my arm to grab his hand but I couldn’t squeeze his fingers.

“I looked into his eyes and that’s when I realised what happened was major. I remember slipping in and out of consciousness because of the pain levels. I’d broken a bone before, so recognising that weird feeling across my whole body from my fingertips right down to my toes, I knew I had really done some damage.”

David Holmes, left, talking to Daniel Radcliffe on the Harry Potter set

He revealed that one his first thoughts was “Don’t ring Mum and Dad; I don’t want to worry them.”

After being rushed to Watford General Hospital, Holmes spent six months at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, north west London.

He was very close with Radcliffe and a number of other members of the Potter cast, including Tom Felton who played Draco Malfoy.

Radcliffe has previously described Holmes as “an incredibly important person in my life”, and the Potter actor has been involved in the production of a documentary looking at Holmes’ life both before and after the accident.

‘David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived’ will include footage from Holmes’ life, including behind-the-scenes clips from the Harry Potter set and contributions from his friends and family.

Holmes was paralysed from the chest down following the accident in 2009 (Instagram/@davidholmes83)

Along with being an executive producer on the doc, Radcliffe will also appear on camera and be interviewed himself.

A full synopsis of the upcoming HBO documentary, which will be available on Sky Documentaries and NOW, reads: “The film is a coming-of-age story of stuntman David Holmes, a prodigious teenage gymnast from Essex, England, who is selected to play Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double in the first Harry Potter film, when Daniel is just eleven.

“Over the next ten years, the two form an inextricable bond, but on the penultimate film a tragic accident on set leaves David paralysed with a debilitating spinal injury, turning his world upside down.

“As Daniel and his closest stunt colleagues rally to support David and his family in their moment of need, it is David’s extraordinary spirit of resilience that becomes their greatest source of strength and inspiration.”

David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived arrives on HBO on November 15. It will also be available on demand on Sky Documentaries and streaming service NOW from November 18.

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