DAVID HOLMES: The Harry Potter stunt actor says he is living “vicariously” through Daniel Radcliffe after an accident

DAVID HOLMES: The Harry Potter stunt actor says he is living “vicariously” through Daniel Radcliffe after an accident

Harry Potter actor David Holmes has spoken candidly about living “vicariously” through his former partner Daniel Radcliffe, after an accident on set left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Holmes, a talented gymnast who was born in Essex, was just 17 when he was cast as Radcliffe’s stunt double in the 2001 film adaptation. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. He will reprise the role in the next five films in the hit fantasy franchise, until an exciting rehearsal took place during pre-production Deathly Hallows Part One In 2009 something went terribly wrong. While performing a burlesque stunt, Holmes was launched into a wall, and his neck was instantly broken.

Now Holmes, who uses a wheelchair and has limited movement in his arms and fingers, tells his story in the documentary David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived. It explores the accident, but also celebrates his life before and after, as well as the experiences of stunt performers and disabled communities. Talking to The IndependentHolmes explains how Radcliffe – who serves as an executive producer on the film – and his “amazing” career have been a source of great pride for him.

“Every time I see his body in films, I can experience those successes vicariously just because I know that in those early days I was the one who helped him get back in shape and laid the foundation for him,” he says.

Holmes rose The boy who lived With director Dan Hartley, the pair first met on the set of the first Harry Potter film where Hartley was an intern in the camera department. Holmes’ height meant that he often doubled for children throughout his career. He was on the verge of puberty and he was filming a movie Philosopher’s StoneHowever, a friendship soon formed between the 17-year-old and Radcliffe, who was only 11 years old.

“I would close the door to the stunt shop and we would play; whether it was jumping out of portable cabins or jumping on a trampoline, or doing all the things that an insurance company might have a heart attack over,” Holmes recounts. “It was important that I created an environment where people could have a heart attack.” There’s just a kid in it.” In the documentary, Radcliffe talks about his absolute horror of the stunt department, and admits that he considered pursuing a career in it himself.

“It was important to create an environment where he could just be a kid.”


“He’s gone from being my little brother to being one of my best friends,” Holmes says. He saw something of himself in Radcliffe; After all, the stunt performer was just a kid when he started working in the industry, and landed his first role in 1998. Lost in space At the age of fourteen. He was instantly hooked.

Harry Potter was a life-changing gig for Holmes, who also doubled as Ron, Neville, Malfoy and even Hermione in the early films (“The first time I was in the movie…I was wearing a wig and a skirt,” he tells me). The kids were young, Hartley remembers, and so were the crew. It really felt like a family that grew together throughout the franchise.

Holmes performed stunts in the first six films, and is credited as a Quidditch player in Slytherin. Philosopher’s Stone. Then one day in 2009, weeks ago Deathly Hallows Part One Filming begins, and tragedy strikes. The team was testing a scene where Harry Nagini fights Voldemort’s snake, and is pushed through a wall. During the previous day’s practice, Holmes expressed concern that the weight bag used to pull him back was too heavy. However, he insisted that he be the one to do the job again.

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The incident was described in the documentary as a “blur”, with fellow artist Mark Miley, who ended up replacing Holmes in Harry Potter at his request, saying he had “never seen a human being move so fast, even to this extent”. day.” “I remember hitting the wall, and my chest was over my nose. “I was completely conscious throughout the whole thing,” Holmes recalls. He was suspended in the air, attached to his wires “like a doll”, and he immediately realized that he had broken his neck.

Radcliffe in the film “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, where Holmes played his dual role

(Warner Bros)

When watching footage from Holmes’ time in the hospital, any viewer will be amazed at his ability to laugh through it all. “He was actually able to look at other people with more serious injuries and say, ‘I’m actually better off than them, and I have to take care of them now.’ Which is the most ridiculous good quality in a person,” Radcliffe choked up as he recalled to the camera.

I asked Holmes about his ability to stay positive in the hospital. “You choose to be a victim or a survivor in everything in life, right?” He says. “I went to the hospital and met real victims, people who were suffering from spinal cord injuries because they had either been the victims of a hate crime or a terrorist attack. It quickly made me own my life choices very, very quickly.”

As the story of his accident made headlines around the world, Holmes became, in his own words, the “celebrity spinal injury story” in his ward. Radcliffe visited him in hospital immediately, while Tom Felton and even Jack Black, who was in the UK filming the film Gulliver’s TravelsAs it was stated. With Warner Bros. supplying food from their studio canteen (“By the end of my mission, I was feeding the entire spine ward full of people…and nurses!”), Holmes felt it was his duty to “keep morale high.” Feeling like he “made a difference” in turn “helped me deal with my trauma.”

If my legs come back tomorrow, I’ll try to get back to work again

David Holmes

“When you live with a spinal cord injury, you’re forced to sit with your problems. It makes you very philosophical and very emotionally intelligent,” he says. Holmes recalls the first time he visited the Harry Potter studio after the accident. He was wearing a neck brace and a feeding tube in his nose , But he wanted to show everyone, even if they visited him or not, that “even though my neck was broken, my soul was not… I still felt them. There with me.”

These were moments of relief in what was understood to be “the most difficult time of my life.” He was scheduled to leave hospital after four months, until a life-threatening cyst was discovered in his spine. Holmes needed a long surgery that brought him back to square one of recovery.

Holmes considered himself “pretty much indestructible until I hit the wall that day”, but says gossip among stunt artists meant he was “fully aware” of the risks involved in the job. Perhaps that’s why he says, despite his injury, he would return to “the best job in the world” in a heartbeat if given the chance.

“If my legs came back tomorrow, I would try to get back to work again, honestly,” he says. “I have to face challenges, I have to learn new skills. The life of a stunt artist is really what you can imagine. Sometimes it’s not glamorous, and yes, sometimes you have to accept that there is risk and that injuries can be picked up along the way.” But it really is an amazing profession.”

Radcliffe (left) served as executive producer on the documentary


Holmes is pleased that people have been moved by the documentary, although he insists he does not want to be the “poster boy” for any movement. But Hartley was also motivated by his optimism. “Dave’s message is: ‘Live in the moment, appreciate what you have,'” the director says. “I took that to heart.”

What Holmes is less comfortable with is being called an “inspiration” — especially by non-disabled people. “If someone comes up to me in the chair and says, ‘You inspired me to get out of bed that day,’ that’s the best compliment anyone could ever give me,” he says. “But when a healthy person says that word to me about myself, I sometimes look at them and say, ‘Well, I kind of feel sorry for you. You’re obviously not as tough as me.’

However, for the “90 minutes of my life that you see through this film,” Holmes is “more than happy to be an inspiration.” He says the documentary is a “story of conquest over a real hardship” and one that should be celebrated. He adds: “There is nothing more difficult than living with a broken neck, I can assure you.”

David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived is released on Sky Documentaries and NOW on Saturday 18 November.

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