He spent years falling off broomsticks and being thrown backwards by magical explosions. He even came face-to-face with Lord Voldemort and lived to tell the tale.
But it was during a practice session on set that a Harry Potter stuntman was paralysed for life – and now he’s spoken out about his tragic accident.
Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double, 30-year-old David Holmes, was paralysed while practising for scenes in one of the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in 2009.
While rehearsing a flying scene – a “jerk back” stunt designed to replicate the effects of an explosion – Holmes was hurled into a wall and broke his neck.
Speaking for the first time about his accident to the UK’s Mirror, Holmes says that his first thought was: “Don’t ring mum and dad, I don’t want to worry them.”
Holmes says when he first hit the wall, he wasn’t aware of how serious his accident was.
“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,” Holmes explains.
“I looked into his eyes and that’s when I realised what happened was major.”
He spent six months in an orthopaedic hospital, and at first couldn’t even sit up because his muscles had wasted away. He was told he would be paralysed from the waist down and would barely be able to move his arms or hands.
As a former gymnast, Holmes says, “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.”
Today, David is in a wheelchair.
He appeared in all the Harry Potter films from The Philospher’s Stone in 2001, up to his accident in 2009.
He was visited in hospital by 24-year-old Daniel Radcliffe and 26-year-old Tom Felton. Radcliffe also hosted a charity auction to help raise money for Holmes’ medical bills.
Holmes and Radcliffe are still close, and the Harry Potter star spoke to the Mirror, saying, “I’ve got a relationship that goes back many, many years with Dave… And I would hate for people to just see me and Dave and go, ‘Oh, there’s Daniel Radcliffe with a person in a wheelchair’ because I would never, even for a moment, want them to assume that Dave was anything except for an incredibly important person in my life.”
Today, Holmes has launched a production company with two friends who are also tetrapelgic, making podcasts about what it’s like to become paralysed. He also works to raise money for the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital where he stayed when he was injured.
Holmes worked behind-the-scenes on the Harry Potter films, and it was he who thrilled children the world over with the boy wizard’s daring feats. Since his accident, he has faced more real struggles than his fictional counterpart – and survived.
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