The Most Dangerous ‘Harry Potter’ Stunts Including One That Paralyzed a Stunt Double for Life

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, Tom Felton, Daniel Radcliffe, 2002
Warner Brothers/Everett Collection
Warner Brothers/Everett Collection

The beloved Harry Potter films are full of death-defying stunts… flying on broomsticks, escaping dementors, and even aunts that blow up like a balloon. Based on novels, the movies had the tall order of bringing so many magical elements to life. Of course, us muggles don’t have real magic to use so the movie makers had to rely on CGI effects and stunt doubles to film lots of dangerous scenes. Unfortunately, one of the stunt doubles named David Holmes, experienced an accident while filming one of the movies and is now paralyzed for life. The scene in question is in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 when Voldemort’s snake Nagini strikes at Harry, forcing him backward. Holmes’ spine was injured during the fall.


Warner Brothers/Everett Collection

Daniel Radcliffe, who famously brought to life The Boy Who Lived, is now 34 years old and promoting a film about Holmes, his life, and the horrifying incident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The entire story is being told in the HBO Original documentary David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, with Radcliffe being an executive producer on the project.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1, from left: Robbie Coltrane, Daniel Radcliffe, 2010.

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Ent./J.K.R./Everett Collection

Radcliffe once shared about his friendship with Holmes, “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.”


Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Any fans of the franchise realize just how many risky stunts are featured in the films. Radcliffe once opened up about the craziest one he ever did in 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He revealed that he was attached to a wire but had to fall down a 40ft roof and was terrified the entire time. Radcliffe was only 15 years old at the time and afterward, realized that he would never be allowed to do something so dangerous again.

If you’ve ever seen the films, you know that there aren’t just falls and flying involved. There are scenes where the characters use a Portkey to get around, involve spinning and vanishing, there are fights with dragons and dementors, underwater scenes, Quidditch games, fires, and the list goes on. Even in scenes that are seemingly all CGI, many of the characters (or stunt doubles) still need to do some stunt work to make the scene more realistic. There are so many fire scenes in the films, that during the filming of the big battle scene, one fire got away from the crew and took around 40 minutes to be put out and ruined some of the sets. As for other stunts and mishaps, the cast and crew have been pretty tight-lipped about everything, even so many years later.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by David Holmes (@davidholmes83)

The documentary premieres on HBO on Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. and will be available to stream on Max as well. Watch the trailer:

Want More?


October 2023

Take a fond look back at our favorite small-screen spellbinders

Buy This Issue