The Harry Potter Scene That Went From Magical to Tragic In An Instant

Harry Potter Stuntman

The Harry Potter films have been enchanting audiences ever since The Philosopher’s Stone first premiered in 2001. Seven more wonderful films have followed, and a devoted fanbase of all ages continues to be enthralled by the various spin-offs. But behind the childlike wonder and magical fun lies a darkness that many Potterheads are unaware of. The darkness of a terrible accident that changed the life of a talented young man forever…

David Holmes was Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double from the very first movie. Such was his skill and dedication, that Holmes continued in this job for the next six sequels. But during a stunt rehearsal for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the unthinkable occurred that would end Holmes’ career.

The ghastly accident happened when Holmes was rehearsing a flying stunt when an explosion erupted on the set. This caused him to be thrown into a wall and then pulled hard by a high-strength wire, before falling on the crash mat underneath. Colleagues rushed to his side, finding him conscious, but gravely injured:

“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,” he told The Mirror in 2014, “I looked into his eyes and that’s when I realised what happened was major.”

Holmes further recalled having no sensation below his waist, telling those present that he could not feel his legs. He was immediately rushed to hospital where, despite the seriousness of his condition, his primary concern was others:

“My first thought was, ‘don’t ring Mum and Dad, I don’t want to worry them.’”

Harry Potter Stuntman

He went on to say that his initial fear was not about losing his ability to walk, but rather, “all the other stuff, like not being able to dance again or have sex.”

Doctors confirmed that the pulling from the wire had broken Holmes’ neck and that he would be paralysed from the waist down for the rest of his life. He initially refused to accept this, feeling determined to one day return to his stunt career. What followed was five long, difficult years of recovery, during which Holmes needed two full-time carers. But thanks to a custom-built home and a strong-willed, positive attitude, Holmes is now living life to the fullest:

“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.”

Holmes now has a podcast with Daniel Radcliffe called Cunning Stunts, which focuses on the stunt community in the UK. The series also aims to draw attention to the need for the Academy to formally recognise stuntwork as an awards category:

“I literally broke my neck because people sit in front of a screen and want to go, ‘that was a good stunt’,” Holmes told Deadline during an 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.”

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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