David Holmes was Harry Potter's stunt double for 7 movies. Then something went wrong.

David Holmes was the stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 to the first instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2009.

But on set, something went horribly wrong. 

Now, Radcliffe is exec producing a documentary about his former stunt double and friend, following an accident on the set of Deathly Hallows: Part 1, called David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived.

The accident on the Harry Potter set.

When Holmes was 27, and rehearsing a scene for the Deathly Hallows, a film set explosion occurred. 

Holmes was flying in the air when he was thrown into a wall and pulled back by a high-strength wire, breaking his neck. According to an article in The Mirror at the time, Holmes laid on the ground, conscious, before telling his colleagues, "I can't feel my legs".

David Holmes and Daniel Radcliffe on set. Image: Warner Brothers. 


Speaking to the same publication in 2014, Holmes recalled, "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."

He was rushed to hospital by paramedics, and there he was told he would be paralysed for life from the waist down.

"My first thought was, 'don't ring Mum and Dad, I don't want to worry them'," Holmes said.

"My first thoughts weren't about not being able to walk again. It was all the other stuff, like not being able to dance again or have sex."

The explosion scene from Harry Potter and the Death Hallows. Image: Warner Bros.


The gymnast-turned-stuntman said it was a massive shock, going from being an adrenaline junkie to not being able to move.

"I have gone from being able to stand on my hands for half an hour at a time and then all of a sudden I can't sit up in bed," Holmes said.

Initially, he was convinced that despite his prognosis he'd return to his stunt work and make a full recovery. But soon the severity of his condition became clear. For the next nine months, he laid in a hospital bed.

For the next five years, he relied on two full-time carers. But now, Holmes lives in a custom-built home, designed to allow him to live on his own terms.

He says being positive is still the most crucial thing for him.

"If you're positive about your disability then it can help you live with it. I haven't let my accident affect my outlook on life and I am still very determined and positive.

"I also haven't let it hold me back in life and I still enjoy track days racing my car, going on holidays with my friends and am now looking forward to starting a new career."

Radcliffe visited Holmes whilst he was still in hospital and also hosted a celebrity charity auction to raise funds to help pay Holmes' medical bills.

David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived.

Image: Sky.


The upcoming documentary about Holmes, David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, tells the coming-of-age story of the gymnast-turned-stuntman who formed an unbreakable bond with Radcliffe.

It will feature personal footage from the last decade, behind-the-scenes material from Holmes' stunt work, scenes of his current life and intimate interviews with him, Radcliffe, friends, family and former crew.

The joint Sky and HBO Documentary Films production will air overseas next month - we'll keep you posted on any Australian streaming details.


It comes a couple of years after Radcliffe and Holmes launched Cunning Stunts, a podcast series having conversations with the UK stunt community.

"I think there's a myth around stuntmen that they are just superhuman in some way," Radcliffe said in an interview with Deadline. 

"When the public see something really painful or horrible, they think it was a visual effect or that there's some clever, safe way of doing it. Often that's not the case.”

"There's no way of faking, for example, falling down the stairs. When you get hit by a car, you're still getting hit by a car, even if it's going slower than it would. They find the safest way of doing it, but it can still hurt."

The pair also discussed the need for recognition in the stunt community by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"I literally broke my neck because people sit in front of a screen and want to go, 'that was a good stunt'." Holmes said in the same Deadline interview. 

"We risk our lives for the sake of entertainment, so it's a bit ridiculous when all other departments get recognised and we don't."

This post was originally published on March 19, 2018 and has been updated.

Feature Image: Warner Brothers + Instagram.

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