With trusty wand in hand, darting through the air or battling on a broomstick, Harry Potter thrilled cinema audiences as he fought the evil Lord Voldemort.
But throughout the blockbuster fantasy films, when the boy wizard was pulling off his dangerous escapes it wasn’t star Daniel Radcliffe behind the round spectacles.
It was his stunt double David Holmes taking the risks.
That is until the movie of the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when David suffered a horrific accident on set as a stunt went very wrong.
Rehearsing a flying scene – recognised as one of the most dangerous in the business – he was hurled into a wall, breaking his neck, and leaving him paralysed for life.
But, speaking for the first time about the trauma, he reveals how his initial concern wasn’t for himself.
“My first thought was, ‘Don’t ring Mum and Dad, I don’t want to worry them’,” says David.
Disaster struck at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, Herts, in January 2009 when he slammed into a wall after being pulled backwards at speed by a high-strength wire.
The “jerk back” stunt is designed to replicate the effects of an explosion.
David, who is now in a wheelchair, says: “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.
“I remember slipping in and out of consciousness because of the pain levels. I’d broken a bone before, so recognising that weird feeling across my whole body from my fingertips right down to my toes, I knew I had really done some damage.”
David was rushed to the local Watford General Hospital but transferred to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, North West London, where doctors told him he would be paralysed from the chest down, with only limited movement in his arms and hands.
David, now 30, 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.”
He spent six months in the RNOH and as his muscles had almost wasted away was unable to sit up for weeks.
He says: “As soon as they sat me up and I took the weight of my head into my shoulders it was just horrendous. The patience you have to learn is unbelievable.
“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.
“At the first physio lesson they sit you up, put a foam cushion behind you and you are just struggling to find your balance. I thought, ‘oh my God, I can’t even sit up straight’.”
While at the RNOH, David was visited by Radcliffe, 24, and Tom Felton, 26, who played Draco Malfoy.
Radcliffe later hosted a celebrity charity auction and dinner to raise money for David’s medical bills and the pair are still close.
Daniel said: “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.”
David, from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, started his stunt career as a competitive gymnast from the age of just six. At 14 he was asked to be the body-double for a young actor playing Will Robinson in 1998 sci-fi movie Lost in Space, starring William Hurt and Matt Le Blanc.
“That’s where it began,” says David, who trained in gymnastics, trampolining, high diving, kick boxing, horse riding and swimming.
He was spotted as a potential Radcliffe double by stunt co-ordinator Greg Powell who he met just before the series started and was asked to do a broomstick test.
“I found myself in this wonderful studio strapped to the back of a truck, getting towed down the runway, dragging my feet along the floor in front of Chris Columbus, the director.
“So that’s how I got my job.”
David appeared in all the Harry Potter movies from The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 until the accident in 2009.
He says: “It was an amazing experience. I loved it and Dan was an absolute pleasure to work with. The cast and crew were like a second family and I remain in touch with a lot of them to this day.”
David knows the injuries he suffered have changed his life for ever.
But he is determined not to let his disability define him.
He says: “I took control of the situation quite early on. I wanted to tell my doctor where I thought I was at – my exact words were that ‘I think I’m completely screwed’.
“It was hard for my parents to hear but it was important to me to have that control. I wanted to be wrong, but I wasn’t.
“There was definitely a sense of tragedy for me, but also a sense of sheer determination to beat it and better it.
“Having a positive mental attitude means everything. I also think that if you’re positive about your disability then it can help you live with it.
“Sometimes I do get flashbacks from the accident – I re-live it sometimes when I’m drifting off to sleep – but it’s something I’ve learned to live with and manage.”
Six years on, David now gets his adrenaline rush driving a specially-modified car around race tracks at speeds of up to 150mph.
He uses a ‘push-pull’ hand control system to accelerate and brake.
He has also launched a new production company, Ripple Productions, with two friends who are also tetraplegic.
The trio recently released a series of podcasts to help people who have suffered similar injuries.
David says: “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.”
David has also become an Appeal Ambassador for RNOH, the UK’s largest specialist orthopaedic hospital where he completed his gruelling physio. He is helping them raise £15 million to buy additional facilities and equipment.
David says: “Every eight hours someone in the UK is told they will never walk again. Without places like the RNOH things would look much bleaker for those people. The support they gave me was incredible.
“Everybody at the hospital took great care of me and I met some amazing staff and patients along my road to recovery.
“It’s a massive project but once complete it will really change lives.
“So if anyone out there has a spare few quid please go on to the RNOH website and donate whatever you can for this fantastic cause.”
*Anyone wishing to donate to the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital should visit: www.rnohcharity.org and to hear David's podcasts go to : www.rippleproductions.co.uk/