The Harry Potter accident that left Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double David Holmes paralysed

Holmes reflected on his ‘tragic’ injury in a resurfaced interview

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 31 October 2023 11:27 GMT
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Daniel Radcliffe is making a documentary about his Harry Potter stunt double who was left paralysed after an on-set accident.

After being hired as Radcliffe’s double for the Harry Potter film adaptations, David Holmes was left with a broken neck after a stunt went wrong while filming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010).

The Essex-born Holmes, who is now 42, has been paralysed from the chest down ever since, and a new documentary, titled David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, will shine a light on the “tragic” incident that “turned his world upside down”.

But what actually happened to Holmes? The man himself revealed details about the injury in an interview with The Mirror in 2014.

Holmes was rehearsing a flying scene at Warner Bros Studios, Leavesden, in 2009 when he was pulled backwards “at speed” by a high-strength wire in a “jerk back” stunt that replicates the effects of an explosion. However, Holmes was launched into a wall and he immediately broke his neck.

He was rushed to Watford General Hospital before beig transferred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, north west London, where he remained for six months.

It was here that Holmes discovered he was paralysed from the chest down, and would have limited movements in his arms and hands.

Holmes said of the immediate aftermath of the incident: “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.”

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He said his initial thought was: “Don’t ring Mum and Dad; I don’t want to worry them.”

Daniel Radcliffe and David Holmes in new documentary ‘The Boy Who Lived’

Holmes was regularly visited by Radcliffe as well as Draco Malfoy actor Tom Felton. The former held a charity auction and dinner to raise money for Holmes’s medical bills. He called Holmes “an incredibly important person in my life”.

Holmes’s career began aged six, when he became a competitive gymnast, and he received his first body-double job for the science-fiction film Lost in Space (1998) starring Matt LeBlanc and William Hurt.

He played Radcliffe’s stunt double from the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which was released in 2001, and got the job after being spotted by stunt co-ordinator Greg Powell.

Holmes, who became an Appeal Ambassador for RNOH, said of the incident in 2014: “Sometimes I do get flashbacks from the accident – I re-live it sometimes when I’m drifting off to sleep – but it’s something I’ve learned to live with and manage.”

David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived will feature “candid personal footage shot over the last decade, behind-the-scenes material from Holmes’s stunt work, scenes of his current life and intimate interviews with David, Radcliffe, friends, family, and former crew”.

Daniel Radcliffe has remained close friends with David Holmes

Directed by British filmmaker Dan Hartley, the project comes a few years after Radcliffe, 34, and Holmes launched the 2020 Cunning Stunts podcast together.

David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived premieres on HBO on Wednesday 15 November at 9pm EST, before being made available to stream on Max in the US. UK viewers can stream it on Sky Documentaries and NOW from 18 November.

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